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  1. Technology
February 8, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Rachel Chalmers

Demo 99, the giant launch-fest now under way in Indian Wells, California (CI No 3,593), seems to be living up to its reputation as the birthplace for dozens of new products each year. Of the IT firms demonstrating their wares, the one that attracts the most interest is that usual suspect, Microsoft Corp. Rumor has it that a concept product called Vizact, designed to make Word documents more like web pages and vice versa, will make its first public appearance this week. Unlike Comdex and Davos, however, there’s more to Demo 99 than just Microsoft. To start with, there’s a whole cottage industry of software houses tackling web-based commerce. Mercado Software plans to trot out version 2.0 of its web catalog development tool. Frictionless Commerce Inc launched a comparison shopping environment, while Allegis Corp unveiled a business-to-business e-commerce system called Allegis Sales Partner. And wherever e- commerce goes, groupware follows. ActiveTouch fondly hopes its web collaboration service will make interactive web meetings as pervasive as email. A comparatively modest Day- Timers Inc just wants to extend the value of current calendaring tools by harnessing the web. Predictably, start-ups are mobbing the portal space in search of an as-yet unfilled ecological niche. Portera Systems announced its business portal ServicePort. InfoRay Inc went one better with a Business Data Portal while EpiCentric Inc’s entry, now in beta at Philips, Baan and the USPS, is an enterprise portal solution for corporate intranets and extranets. Another kind of company seems primarily interested in solving knotty technical problems. In this family are NetManage Inc, whose eDemo allows live, online application demonstrations; Hypercosm Inc, which launched 3D net graphics technology and a new programming language for graphical web applications; and Delano Technology Corp, which believes that its email application server pioneers a new product category. Then there are the rich media hopefuls. Live Picture Inc unveiled its LivePix Kiosk, which lets consumers turn personal photos into cards, calendars and business materials. Pulse Entertainment showed off its Pulse Creator Authoring System and Pulse Player browser plug-in, which work together to deliver animation and digital actors through a 28.8Kbps modem.


Voice is big. Conversational Systems Inc brought its flagship product, ConversIt. Users can ask ConversIt questions and receive answers, and can use the software to operate their computers through everyday conversational speech. Another voice technology came in the shape of NetSage Corp’s Social Intelligence Server (SIS). This emulates a customer self-service transaction, adding integrated web commerce and automatic voice response. Video alone brought a number of companies to Demo 99. PixelPro Technologies demonstrated Magician, a digital video compression tool which lets users specify how much quality they need in different parts of an image. TiVo Inc is to give the first preview of its personal television (PTV) service, while ReplayTV, the set-top box whose company’s board of directors boasts Marc Andreessen, is also slated to make an appearance. That’s not so surprising when you consider that Palo Alto, California-based Replay Networks Inc is sponsoring Demo 99. Finally there are the oddballs, belonging to no category but their own. A company called iPlay challenged the strongest stomachs with its announcement of iPlay Bompers, an entertaining internet community for mainstream fun-seekers. Lifelong online education found its champion in a company called YipiNet LLC, while the equally unfortunately named Zero-Knowledge Systems Inc promised a total internet privacy solution. And then there’s InterTrust Technologies Corp, which announced an MP3Plus Application Developer Kit and MP3Plus Authoring technology. The key selling point of MP3Plus is that it was built to handle rights management and combat MP3 pirates (see separate story). Since record labels don’t like MP3 and MP3 developers aren’t so sure about rights management, InterTrust may find that it has the hardest selling job of any company at Demo 99.

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