SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Another batch of companies went through the grinder at Demo—the one conference that continues to focus on practical innovation—and surprise, there are some likely survivors. For the first time, the majority of exhibitors and demonstrators at the conference focused on tactical solutions aimed at the enterprise. Most of the venture capitalists surely were confused. Chris Shipley, who runs the conference, said that "800 companies used to come through here, but now it is less than half of that." But she added, "the quality is better."
Clearly the quality of the demonstrators was excellent, but it didnt start out that way. The first two exhibitors were straight out of 1997. TerraDigital Systems Terraplayer Internet Radio is clearly fun (and expensive), but also useless to anyone in the enterprise. Likewise theres nothing from FullAudio that appeals to the IT crowd, and in fact the ability to play and download music probably works against anyone trying to manage a network in the enterprise.
Things improved significantly from there. Grouped into the "Finding Information" category, Groxis Inc., OpenCola, and Meaningful Machines proved once again that we have no idea where our data is. They also proved that the technological answer to this problem is suspect at best. Groxiss Grokker, for example, is a fascinating search engine that combines the power of Google with a document management system. The innovation with the Grokker is with its interface, which blends the hyperbolic tree concept of The Brain with the encapsulation technique of Copernic. With the Grokker, what its doing is not new, its the way that it gets it done. Any knowledge worker is eventually going to need something like the Grokker or Copernic simply to fix issues inherent with an individuals inability to store things correctly.
Gary Gunnerson, IT architect at Gannett, said "What are we doing, going back to Stranger in a Strange Land? We saw several products [including Grokker] that increase the relevancy of information to the end user. Search engines arent enough is the statement that is being made."
OpenCola, meanwhile, attempts to dig through corporate knowledge and connect people together based on that knowledge. At its core, OpenCola blends document management and messaging, including e-mail and IM. For example, a user may be working on a specific legal case. That user sends out a request to the OpenCola server, which in turn keeps an index of documents that were made available and people who have knowledge of the case or appropriate laws. The user then can access the document, contact the person, and collaborate. Its the perfect people and knowledge broker.
Three industries in which this will be successful: consultants, applied science disciplines, and financial institutions, specifically brokerages. The issue working against OpenCola is simply how to explain the security model. If a user makes some documents available but shouldnt have, does OpenCola know enough to pull back on the document before its too late?
A New Portal Business Model
Joe Firmage is thought by many to be too far ahead of his time. He created a development program that preceded and superceded Visual Basic. He sold it to Novell while Netware was still the king of the hill. He was the CEO of US Web when consultants had it good and left before they became street drudge. He began uncovering the "truth" about UFOs before the first alien autopsy. Hes now the CEO of ManyOne Networks, which will be extremely difficult to explain in the two-dimensional world.
ManyOnes Universal Browser is basically a business model and a three-dimensional browser visualization and content aggregator that allows private organizations to create their own AOL or MSN like portals. Those portals, however, are truly differentiated from anything weve ever seen. Instead of an explanation, check out www.manyone.net, download the Universal Brower (on or after February 28th), and let us know what you think.