19 Startups in Two Hours

Upstarts at First Demo Session show how new communication and collaboration tools can improve work efficiency.

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Communications technologies constituted the bulk of the relentless barrage of presentations -- 19 companies at six minutes a pop -- at the launch of Demo 08 here on Jan. 29.

If there is a thematic current running under the show, it's that vendors are looking to leverage the Internet fabric as a communications platform for consumers, small businesses and big enterprises.

The focus at Demo, as always, is on new technologies, running the gamut from consumer applications to software for small businesses and enterprises. Technologies in the latter carried the torch for the launch of the show, particularly in communications.

Ribbit, Ribbit

One company that has already garnered attention is Ribbit, which confidently bills itself as the first Silicon Valley phone company (a marketing coup if ever there was one). I had a Web conference with these guys last week and their voiceware, Amphibian, was no less impressive today.

Amphibian allows consumers to answer calls to their mobile phones from their PC. The Web page acts as a mobile phone, even offering a visual representation of a phone to allow users to dial out from their PC. Amphibian also enables contacts in social networks thanks to its integration with Google's OpenSocial platform.

For example, Ribbit co-founder Crick Waters showed how he uses Amphibian to connect to Plaxo and contact users in that network. This will also work for Skype VOIP (voice over IP) and Google Talk.

To Ribbit: Take this technology into the enterprise and watch it fly. I know it can do it. Ribbit debuted last month Ribbit for Salesforce, allowing mobile calls, voice messages and text transcriptions to bleed right into Salesforce.com to keep users from going from phone to PC and back.

800 Genie

800 PBX meanwhile introduced 800 Genie, a personalized telephony service that mashes voice and data through special voice recognition technology. During the demo, company officials made a phone call to the application to check e-mail via phone. The automated system retrieved new messages and read them over the phone to the user.