02 Feb The Calm Before the Storm: Hot New Firms and Technologies
The two weeks before any DEMO Conference are a calm before the storm. The plans are set, the program is in place. The next 13 days will be spent in quiet preparations by a group of outstanding companies about to bring exciting products to market.
As executive producer of the event, I’m bound by the rules that hold all of these product announcements confidential until their unveiling at the conference on February 15. And as DEMO has been my near-exclusive focus for the past five months, that obligation creates a small problem. For these two weeks before DEMO, that on which I am most closely focused is not available as fodder for this column.
So this week and next, I’ll share with you some interesting companies that aren’t at DEMO. There are dozens of reasons these companies weren’t able to come to DEMO, but none of those reasons has anything to do with the strength of their products or technologies.
Early on in the company screening process, I met with Neah Power Systems, a company that is working on bringing fuel cell technology to mobile computing applications. Rather than store electricity as a traditional battery does, fuel cells use a chemical reaction to generate electricity by combining oxygen with a hydrogen-based fuel, such as methanol.
We’ve heard a lot of hype about fuel cells in recent years. Toshiba is working on so-called Smart Fuel Cells. The auto industry is experimenting with fuel-cell-driven engines. The government is funding programs to facilitate research and development. (In fact, Neah Power received a $2M grant from NIST to support its efforts.)
Neah Power uses a silicon design as the core of its fuel cell engine, an approach that overcomes the challenges of polymer membrane technology that has dominated fuel cell research. Electricity is generated as the fuel crosses through the membrane. Because the silicon design exposes more surface area to be fuel, the design is more efficient in energy production, yet also enables miniaturization of the fuel cells themselves. The company is doing breakaway work in this area (you can read more about it at < http://www.neahpower.com >. Still, fuel cell technology for practical, everyday use is probably another 18 – 24 months away.
While we keep fuel cells on the radar for a future DEMO conference, we will see a breakthrough in traditional battery technology at this year’s conference. If you are a road warrior, you’ll not want to miss that announcement.
Another company we’re keeping an eye on is Maven Networks. Maven quietly introduced its software platform for media production last year and has been rolling out outstanding interactive brand marketing and entertainment with a series of partners ever since. Since partner projects are – rightly – the focus of the company, Maven won’t be at DEMO 2004, but you should take a moment to explore < http://www.mavennetworks.com >.
The platform enables media and brand marketing companies to create beautifully integrated programming that joins top-quality video entertainment with interactivity and commerce functions. These programs – with partners such as Virgin Records, 20th Century Fox, and National Geographic – are the best composed, most engaging PC-meets-TV content we’ve seen.
Another company, too early in its development to come to DEMO, is Ectogenic < http://www.ectogenic.com >. The Southern California company is headed by a smart female telecom entrepreneur. She is tackling the thorny problem of delivering on-demand digital content to consumer devices. The approach enables CE manufacturers to leverage online content without building content into the product offering, and more importantly, to participate in an ongoing revenue stream from consumed media. In a market that founder Lisa Farr estimates to be worth some $14B, this little start-up is well worth watching.
As Maven quietly develops its market presence through projects with key customers and Ectogenic works to fulfill its promise, the whole market for digital home entertainment is at the cusp of something big. You’ll see proof of this at DEMO 2004 where several companies will offer a first look at next-generation entertainment products.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some enterprise technologies that will and won’t be at DEMO. Until then, if you’ve not registered to be at DEMO 2004, take a look at your calendar, adjust your plans, and register to attend the only event that shows you the best of the best, up close and personal.
Vivato co-founder Ken Biba’s replacement has finally been named. The 802.11 switch maker announced that interim CEO Don Stalter will become permanent . . . The MyDoom virus, which has been wending its way through computer systems over the past weeks, hit its target on Sunday. MyDoom launched a denial-of-service attack on the SCO Group’s company Web site. Computers infected with the MyDoom virus sent messages to <http://www.sco.com>, creating a barrage against the company’s Web servers. The IDG News Service reports that this is one of the largest denial-of-service attacks on record . . . Gateway announced its plans to buy eMachines, a player in the retail PC market. The computer giant says it will pay $200 million for the low-end retailer. Gateway has been making a push into the consumer electronics market, but still relies heavily on PC sales, according to the IDG News Service.
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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