Technology executives, scientists, product developers and journalists have gathered every February for 15 years at the DEMO conference to review the latest trends and innovations in technology. This year's conference, which ran from Feb. 13 to 15 in Scottsdale, Ariz., featured presentations on Web browsers, online photo feeds and portable VoIP.
Chris Shipley, the show's executive producer, joined Washington Post columnist Leslie Walker to take your questions about trends in technology.
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A transcript follows.
.com readers may recall that Shipley joined Leslie the last four years to discuss the DEMO expo. Read the archived transcripts: 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Leslie Walker wrote about this year's DEMO conference in her column today: "The Unknown Hunting for Renown."
You can also check out a photo essay Leslie sent back from DEMO.
Hello everyone. Chris Shipley will be joining us live in a few minutes to answer your questions. So click the button and send 'em in now!
Hello, Chris, and welcome to washingtonpost.com. Great conference this week; so glad you could join us to talk about what was hot and what was not. Let's start with themes. You told attendees growth was a big theme among products showcased this year -- growth again in both the consumer and business technology markets. What else?
Chris Shipley: Good afternoon, Leslie. It's always a pleasure to do these post-DEMO chats.
Certainly, the business environment is very much improved. The tech industry is not just "coming back," the tech industry *is* back.
I also think we're seeing a lot of long-held ideas come to fruition. Home networking and control, Web services, etc.
Are most of the products shown at DEMO real businesses--or merely features that other businesses are likely to adopt?
Chris Shipley: Both. They are products from companies who have real business plans. But some of these products and companies are addressing important point solutions, and these companies will no doubt be purchased by other, bigger companies and those products/technologies will find their way into other mainstream products.
Last year's DEMO saw presentations on the FlipStart computer and the Akimbo video service. Any updates?
Chris Shipley: FlipStart is still in development. Akimbo is in the market and getting some good traction. Check them out at www.akimbo.com.
What trends are you seeing in software development?
Chris Shipley: More than anything, that Service-based applications are the future of software development.
I also see some movement from Windows to Linux desktops and new tools to support that transition (look at REAL Software's REAL Basic 2005 cross-compiler, for example).
Above all, Web services are making some very complex, enterprise-class applications available to smaller enterprises.
Seems like your presenters included fewer "gadgets" and more enterprise software/business software companies. Did you deliberately downsize the gadgeteers this year?
Chris Shipley: I never "deliberately" seek out one type of product or another . . . DEMO is a reflection of what is happening in the development community and, presumably, in the market.
That said, there seemed to me to be a good balance between consumer/enterprise, hardware/software.
Among the gadgets, for example, were AutoXray -- a cool device that reads the computer codes in your vehicle to diagnose problems; VKB, a virtual keyboard for mobile devices; and -- probably too big to be a gadget, but a very good product -- TriCaster, a video production product.
Palo Alto, California:
You must screen a lot of companies. Are there areas you are seeing a GLUT of products in? Too many entrepreneurs chasing the same ideas?
Chris Shipley: Two years ago, I would have said yes. After the Internet bust, startups (indeed companies of all sizes) turned lock step to address issues in business software. I saw tons of anti-spam products, for example.
Now, however, there is a much broader, more diverse set of products. Entrepreneurs are identifying opportunity in a ton of areas.
I read that roughly half your presenting companies have received no money from VCs. How does that differ from past years?
Chris Shipley: Yes, I think we are seeing many more young companies developing their businesses without the benefit of venture capital. I might even go so far as to say that some entrepreneurs would prefer to develop without venture money. Overall, though, most young companies have come to realize that there is an optimal time to seek capital, and they are raising money when it is needed to accellerate growth, rather than to fund development.
Winter Park, FL 32789 :
Will Teleo be able to over come the first to market advantage that Skype has, and/or will both create problems for the land line companies...?
Chris, can you let our readers know what Teleo is?
Chris Shipley: THE COMPANY'S DISCRIPTION: Teleo is portable VoIP that is personal, flexible and affordable. Teleo integrates your cell phone and desktop, so you can send and receive calls on your PC, as well as click to call from email, Websites, your Outlook address book and more. Teleo works anywhere: at home, the office or your hotel - even over WiFi. Ideal for mobile professionals, Teleo weaves VoIP into tools you already use today, giving you a full-featured portable communications solution for less than $5 per month.
Teleo is a somewhat different solution from Skype. But even having said that, this is a very new market and there is plenty enough market for both Skype and Teleo and likely a 3rd or 4th competitor.
All of these VoIP solutions will put pressure on traditional telcos, but they will also leverage/partner with them in order to deliver their services.
I am curious about the breakdown between consumer and enterprise products this year. It always seems like a moving target but wondered how strong you thought each crop of products was this time around and what, if anything, stood out for you.
Chris Shipley: The consumer market is a moving target. It's very tough to know what will or won't catch on with consumers. Certainly, good technology helps, but packaging, "fashion" and fad also play a role and these latter two are very hard to predict.
I think the Motorola iRadio product is outstanding, and it will be difficult to predict its success -- there is a lot of experimentation in the market and iPod seems to be getting all the attention.
iControl has done a fantastic job in developing home control and automation solutions, and I think they have a business/go-to-market strategy that will enable them to be successful.
And there's a great deal of consumer software in the mix as well, offering a great deal of value to consumers.
How many VCs attended and what was their feedback?
Chris Shipley: About 20 - 25% of the audience at DEMO is from the investment/venture community. Generally, the response is very positive, and I think in a year like this one when so many of the companies are still seeking funding, DEMO proves to be a great opportunity to vet deal flow. VCs are able to see the market reaction to products before investing in them.
What will be the focus for DEMOmobile? Are the security issues and solutions going to be featured?
Chris Shipley: DEMOmobile, our September event, will become DEMOfall in 2005. Mobility and wireless communications have become mainstream that it has become difficult to distinguish "mobile" from any other sort of product.
I'm just now beginning to look at products for the fall event, so it's hard to say where the event will focus. This focus is always something the market tells me, rather than what I seek out.
You talked this week about lines continuing to blur between consumer and business products. Can you elaborate, and tell us what products illustrate this?
Chris Shipley: I've said in the past that we have become "always on" people. We're connected via phone and email and other technology much of our waking day. And sometimes, it's difficult to distinguish what part of the day is work and what part is play. For example, many people do online searching/shopping for personal items at the office. These same people will answer work emails on the weekend or take business calls after hours.
The mobile phone I justify and pay for with business funds, I also use to make personal calls. A product like PhotoLeap might be used to send photos and files around the office place, but it is intended as a personal photo sharing product. Browster is positioned as consumer software, but will likely find its way into business offices. Homestead makes it simple for individuals to develop beautiful web sites, but the early takers of the QuickSite service will be small business.
The list goes on. The point is that we're looking for ways to leverage technology in all parts of our lives and we simply don't differentiate much between work/home any longer.
"Tech is back"
Having seen where tech has been, and where it is now. What business models are becoming more common among technology companies? How have these new guys demonstrated they understand what the customer wants/needs/expects?
Chris Shipley: I think we're seeing business customers move budgets from capital expenditures to operational expenditures, and we're seeing both hardware and software vendors shifting to subscription models that are easier to buy and easier to implement.
Overall, I'm seeing developers who spend more time with customers, either in early product development or in beta, to understand the market before they deliver product to it. This is best practices and I'm glad that in this healthier market, these practices are being followed more closely.
I'm curious what you consider the most far-fetched idea at the conference this year? Or, if none seemed too far fetched, how about the most "out of the box"?
I didn't see anything that made me guffaw this year--no obvious duds. That said, a few struck me as overkill--imeem, for example, with software creating elaborate personal networks for communicating with friends and managing your digital content. Way too complicated for my aging brain.
Then there was Jambo, on-the-fly wireless social networking. I do believe we will eventually meet strangers on the fly using our cell phones or pocket devices; I just don't think the world is ready yet for ad hoc Jambo-meetups.
Chris, I know you don't consider any of the 73 presenters "far fetched" or you wouldn't have let them on stage! But were there any you consider truly out of the box??
Chris Shipley: "Out of the box" can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. One of the products I found so compelling because it rethought the way a market was created, was JigSaw, which is effectively a list services company.
Do you feel the technology market is getting over-capitalized again? IE, too many IPOs and too much venture capital flowing into startups?
Chris Shipley: Not this technology market. Venture capital is still very tight. Financing levels are much smaller than they were 6 years ago. And VCs seem to be more patient than they were in 98 & 99.
Outside of a handful of notable IPOs, these companies are either toughing it out in the market or they are looking to M&As for liquidity.
I agree Jigsaw is very interesting. It's an online marketplace where people can buy and sell business contacts, using special points.
Andy here again Chris - thanks for your thoughts on the hot consumer products. How about on the enterprise side - did anything stand out?
Chris Shipley: Hi, Andy. Lots on the enterprise-side. Adomo is a great integrated messaging solution on top of Exchange. Blazent is a terrific tool for CIOs to measure the cost-effectiveness of technology implementatins. Fortiva and Imprivata are great security products, helping IT deal with signon and authentication. Metavize is a great solution for SMEs, letting them buy the security they need in a very integrated solution.
These are just a few; the enterprise products this year are quite strong.
Which of the products from this year's show do each of you personally plan to use?
I know of two I plan to test and use if they work as advertised: 1) Photoleap, which compresses or shrinks your digital photos so you can send a whole bunch in a single email; and 2) The forthcoming Quicksites Web-creation service, from Homestead Technologies, offering elaborate pre-designed Web sites.
Chris, are you using any of the products showcased yet?
Chris Shipley: My list is long:
I'm currently using KnowledgeDNA for project management. Also using iMeem, and I expect I'll be adopting Five Across for group messaging. DEMO is working with MovingImage Research to digitize and manage our event video.
I am looking forward to working with Serious Magic, NewTek, QuickSites. I can imagine putting iControl into my vacation home to monitor and manage that property. I suspect either Teleo or Traverse Networks will become a part of my communications environment.
I said at the event this would be an "expensive" show for me because there is so much that I imagine I can put to work.
San Jose, Calif.:
The hype about blogging just gets worse every day. What, if anything, did you conclude from the blogging presentations this year? And when are people going to realize that blogging is just another form of publishing, not a revolution?
I was impressed at how the blogging software presented this year expands the whole idea of personal publishing. Early blogging software let you publish in a fairly rigid format. New flavors allow bloggers to do so much more.
Chris Shipley: I'm not sure I agree with your assesment of blogging. Certainly, blogging is a form a publishing, but one that lowers the cost of entry from thousands, if not millions, of dollars to almost zero. Blogging is not journalism, to be sure, but it does and will continue to have tremendous influence on information and opinion distribution.
What I conclude from this year's products is that blogging tools are being put to work in a lot of creative ways to solve business communications problems. And I think that is very good.
(And -- in a shameless plug -- if you're interested in following blogging as it develops, take a look at www.guidewiregroup.com and/or www.blogonevent.com to keep posted on our coverage of this topic.)
So glad you could join us today, Chris. It was a fun conference this year with lots of diverse products. Looking forward to the next one!
Chris Shipley: Thanks, Leslie. It's always a pleasure to talk with your readers. Thanks for all the great questions.
That's it for today. Thanks to all who submitted questions and a big thanks to Chris Shipley for joining us. Looking forward to seeing what Chris comes up with for her next show!