This week finds me at Demo 2007. Chris Shipley now drives this show, and quite honestly, it's not an obvious fit for Network Computing. The technologies discussed tend toward the consumer side, or at least toward enabling B-to-C business. If one could find a theme in this morning's demos, it would be Web 2.0-ification of everything. Most apps shown were all about improving the end user experience of web based apps. So far there have been a few standouts. The first standout was a company called Zink, it's certainly not a technology that Network Computing would typically cover, but there's an undeniable cool factor. The company makes tiny printers that produce brilliant pictures without applying ink to paper (hence the name, Zero Ink??? Zink). Two devices were demonstrated: The first was a small hand held printer about the size of a typical smart phone. It managed to print what appeared to be a 3" x 5" color photo in about 20 seconds. The second device was a seven megapixal camera with the printer built in. Again, it was about the same form factor as a smart phone, but a bit thicker.
The technology works by imbedding layers of clear crystals into the photo paper. When the crystals are heated, they melt and turn either magenta, cyan or yellow. The result is pretty darn nice looking picture on paper that is apparently quite tough. The magic question is the cost of the paper, but for applications that need good quality instant photos, it's an interesting development.
The second notable technology came from a significantly larger player, Symantec. The company's Intentity Initiative seeks to set Symantec up as a broker of safe business partners. The B-to-C application is clear ??? you want to know if it was really BofA or CitiBank that just sent you a credit card offer. Depending on how the system matures, it could also be used for B-to-B applications, where businesses want to assess the suitability of potential partners.
It's fair to say that the identity theft problem has hamstrung ecommerce. There's a good fraction of the Internet using public who simply won't enter their credit card number on line. Whether Symantec is well known enough to be the trusted broker here is something of an issue. You can bet that Microsoft and others (perhaps Amazon, Yahoo, Google) will want to get into the business of the trusted broker.
Of course there were a few silly demos too. QTech showed it's reQall product. It's essentially a personal memo system that you access with your cell phone. That's right, you essentially leave yourself a voicemail message. Can't remember that shopping list? Just call reQall, tell it your shopping list, then when you get to the store and can't remember it, call reQall back and listen to your message. It doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of flying. It reminded me of Michael Keaton in Night Shift with his memo recorder, "Idea: feed the mayonnaise to the tuna fish". It didn't work then and it won't work now.Art Wittmann is a former editor for InformationWeek. View Full Bio