There were a few big companies on stage this year including hard disk-maker Seagate and software maker Adobe Systems, but most of companies were ones that you — and I — had never heard of. In many cases they had never before introduced a product.
Pairup.com, for example, is a one-person company with the ambitious goal of helping travelers connect with friends and colleagues while on the road. When you visit the Web site, you're encouraged to enter your travel plans, including whether you plan to attend a conference or convention. Then the service pairs you up with other Pairup users who you know that will also be there. Of course, there's a major chicken-and-egg problem here: Most of your colleagues aren't using this brand-new service, but it will also let you import your Outlook contact list and at least tell you about associates who live and work near where you're going.
Another startup, Jaman.com, has a unique service for fans of foreign and independent films. The company will let you download movies to "rent" for $1.99 or "buy" for $4.99. Unlike competing movie download services which require you to watch rental movies within 24 hours, Jaman gives you seven days to watch rental movies or you can pay the extra $3 to own them. Until late this month or early March, the company will offer free movie rentals during its beta test period. It works with Windows and Macs and, of course, requires a high-speed Internet connection. It takes about two hours to download a movie using a typical (1.2 mbps) DSL connection or about a half hour if you have a high speed (4 mbps) cable modem. The only way to watch the movie on a TV is if you can connect your TV to your PC, which is possible for many new sets.
What I like about Jaman is its focus on films that you can't get at most video stores or see at a local theater. Yes, the films are relatively obscure, but that's the point. Also, foreign and independent producers were willing to make their films available at lower costs and more reasonable terms than major U.S. studios, said Jamon CEO Gaurav Dhillon. There is also a community aspect to the service where members rate and recommend movies.
Ejamming.com demonstrated a service for musicians who want to jam, practice or record with people who don't live nearby. The service, which costs $14.95 a month or $150 a year, lets musicians perform together via the Internet. That might sound like something that should have been possible years ago but to make this happen the company had to grapple with the latency issue and laws of physics that cause a delay for sound to get from one place to another over long distances. It does this by introducing a very short delay — about 30 milliseconds — that's equal for all players so that they can remain in the same groove. Company chairman Alan Glueckman said that most musicians, especially those accustomed to digital music, can easily live with that delay.
I'm not a musician but now I can leave musical voice mail and have music on my cell phone greeting. GetaBuz.com allows you to send a voice mail greeting that mixes your voice with music from a wide variety of artists. The Web site lets you select an audio clip that you mix with your voice to have delivered to any cell phone now or any time in the future. Voice messages are delivered without the person's phone ever ringing — they hear them when they check their voice mail. You could use it today to send someone a musical greeting to be delivered on Valentine's day. I used it to, literally, jazz up my cell phone greeting.
There are plenty of photo-sharing services on the Web, but Yodio is launching one that lets you use your voice to describe photos. You can voice-annotate a photo by phone or by talking through a microphone connected to a PC. Click here for a picture of me and Yodio CEO David Jennings, and click on the play button to hear a one-minute-20-second conversation between Jennings and myself. Because I used a good microphone, the sound quality is quite good.
Web cams are becoming increasingly popular, and EyeJot.com has a way for you to put one to use. The free service lets you easily send video e-mail messages to anyone. You can send them by e-mail (your friend gets a link to a site where it is displayed) or embed them on a MySpace profile. Here's a link to a 51-second video conversation between me and EyeJot founder David Geller.
And speaking of video, Panjea.com is launching a service that will let you program your own channel. While it may not make it to a broadcast or cable network, your video channel can be viewed over the Web and you can include video from publicly-available sites like YouTube that allow users to embed their video clips. Panjea TV is similar to a "mix-tape" where you pick your favorite videos to share with others via your site, according to CEO Seth Alsbury. Just like network TV, your channel will have advertisements, only you don't get the revenue. That's how Panjea plans to earn its money.
For more about Demo including access to videos from the on-stage demonstrations, visit www.demo.com.
A syndicated technology columnist for over two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid