My DEMO Rant and 5 Cool Products

After spending two days at DEMO and catching most of the presentations, I’m slightly disappointed. The number of passionate entrepreneurs who are thrilled to be here are inspiring and fun to be around, but some of the products being launched make me want to scream in frustration. First, I’d like to point out for the umpteenth time that Google AdWords isn’t a business model.

Second, think about your startup and what you are trying to do with your particular mashup. There are several startups here trying to pull aspects of sites together to make information consumption easier. However, how long will the owners of such sites let another site or service make money pulling their content out of context and serving ads against it? Ironically, it’s a similar disruption that TiVo or Slingbox brought to television, now being perpetrated against online content providers. This should be an interesting battle to watch, if such mashups gain in popularity.

Finally, a bunch of the services being launched are features rather than businesses (this includes all of the wicked cool tool bars I’ve seen.) I don’t want to be a pessimist, however, because there were some some products and startups that really stood out. These are some of the booths I rushed to after the presentations:

  • Fusion I/O— Basically this company is adding a controller and software to commodity Flash to make really fast and big storage for servers. They’ve added a PCI Express slot that allows for 10 Gigabit Ethernet transport of data between the storage and the servers, and HP is designing it into servers, while IBM is designing it into storage products. This product could be a key attribute for pushing content delivery and cloud computing as close to real time as possible.
  • Plastic Logic— Everyone loves this thin (see photo) plastic reader, and the company says it has a factory opening next week ready to churn out the plastic electronics on which this reader is built. They also say that the plastic is 40 percent cheaper than building electronics displays in silicon. But they don’t plan to license the technology to other partners. Seriously? Unless the reader is sub-$100, I can’t figure out why you would waste such cool technology and build and entire factory for one, high-end device. It’s like inventing chocolate and restricting it for use in chocolate chips, or wanting to control chocolate forever.
  • Arsenal Interactive — A fellow blogger called it useless, but this Ribbit-like platform connects the telephone to the web using robo-calling and software. I found the HeyCosmo applications, which allow me to set a question or task and then give me answers in a minute or so, pretty useful. It’s also ripe for advertising, and the CEO showed me some emails he received from small businesses who received the robotic calls and wanted to talk about advertising. The difficulty will be establishing rating systems for the services displayed and figuring out how to sell what is essentially local advertising without employing too many people.
  • Infovell— As a journalist, I spend a lot of time researching things and know that I pay for access to quality information. If Infovell’s technology can really scan the web that’s left uncrawled by Google’s algorithms and provide more than the current medical, technology and law databases, then there is a market for the service.
  • Awind (mobiShow)– I know there are a million devices attempting to bridge the web and the PC, but Awind’s home entertainment box connects my PC to the TV via a Wi-Fi connection and offers watchable web content today. The box contains software that improves the resolution of the web content when blown up on the television. I still found it a bit fuzzy, but that could be the crappy monitor they brought to the show.

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