What Google and Microsoft Are Looking for at Demo

What companies and technologies are Google and Microsoft interested in at Demo 08?

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Emissaries from Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Yahoo and other large vendors are checking out new technologies at Demo 08 here.

So what are Google and Microsoft, competitors in search and collaboration software, interested in?

Michael Pearson, principal of corporate development at Google, declined to comment Jan. 30 due to the sensitive nature of his role, which is targeting companies for potential investments or acquisitions.

But eWEEK has learned that Pearson and his colleague in business development, Karen Davis, have stopped by the booths of voice over messaging specialist Goldmail, social search provider iLeonardo and online database startup Blist for a look-see.

What does this mean? Perhaps nothing, perhaps a lot. At the very least, Google is satisfying its curiosity over three potentially disruptive technologies.

Goldmail launched its voice over messaging application for consumers in November, but released the enterprise edition of the software here Jan. 29.

Goldmail lets users send e-mails with embedded video messages. Users click on them and get to "see and hear" the message instead of reading it. Such an application could be of great use to Google as it seeks to attack Microsoft in the collaboration software market.

Should Goldmail offer an online version of its software, Google could offer Goldmail as an option for its millions of Gmail users.

iLeonardo, from Notebookz.com, is an application that rolls search, bookmarks and social networks together, producing results and ranking determined by users.

Math-based algorithms have made Google the top search product it is today, but adding something like iLeonardo could help Google better understand users' search behavior. Understanding the search behaviors better could help Google tailor online advertising to its users.

But there are some questions such as how would iLeonardo be incorporated within Google and how would this human-influenced ranking approach affect Google's PageRank?

Initially targeted for consumers, Blist could make the mouths water for vendors such as Google and Microsoft which aim to let users organize their information online.

Using a Flash-based interface, Blist makes an online database that consumers can easily leverage in a spreadsheet form factor. Blist CEO Kevin Merritt told eWEEK his company will eventually target businesses.

But Microsoft likes Blist also. Could there be a duel between Google and Microsoft over this unique information-gathering tool?

Don Dodge, director of business development for Microsoft's emerging business team, pointed to Blist as one of the interesting nuggets at Demo that could develop into something big.

"The whole notion of building a database application online and making them as easy to use as spreadsheets ... that could go places," Dodge told eWEEK.

Noting that startups today are built for acquisition, Dodge views most of these technologies as features that will end up in suites of larger businesses, such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

"All of the underlying assumptions have changed," Dodge told eWEEK. "It used to be companies would get funding, get in the market and move toward an IPO. Now you can start with 2 coders and an idea and you can get it to market without much venture capital. Companies today are built for acquisition."