What would DEMO '07, or any high tech show for that matter, be without loud music and a light show for the daily opening of the conference? DEMOfall could do no less.
But once the noise and flashing lights stop, the hope is always that it will be followed by something more original. Wednesday morning's demos lived up to my high standards.
The first group of presenters offered tools for organizing and running meetings, in effect making them more efficient.
Unfortunately, the enablers are not responsible for the content and so no one has figured out how to make those meetings more interesting, at least not at this year's DEMO.
First up was Tungle, a company with a lightweight plug-in for calendaring.
As skeptical as I am over yet another calendar applet, this one is pretty interesting. It is compatible with Exchange and Outlook now and will be compatible with Google Calendar and Lotus Notes later in the year.
Tungle puts your contacts, preloaded with your Outlook contacts, in an am IM-like list that indicates if the other users have the Tungle plug-in or not.
When you select a name to invite to a meeting, if the user doesn't have Tungle, he or she will receive a pop-up asking if they will accept the invite and if they would like to download the plug-in.
Tungle users can see availability of other users deploying a peer-to-peer network topology and can also create what CEO Marc Gingras called a Tungle Space.
Tungle Space allows the originator of the meeting to go to his or her calendar and highlight a time space for meeting availability. When you send a message to someone else, they see the available time space and can fill in the time they would prefer for the meeting. The time space is updated until everyone invited to the meeting can find a mutually agreeable time.
Mark Dzwonczyk, president and COO of Vello, a phone conferencing solution, was next up, and this solution is definitely worth a second look.
For me, the aha moment came when I realized that Vello calls the user when the phone conference is about to start rather than the user having to find the conference call-in number and place the call himself.
A Vello user simply adds the names of all the people expected to participate, creates a group name, and clicks to call.
In a demo at the show, Dzwonczyk called 68 audience members whose phone numbers he had gathered the evening before. With one click, all the cell phones in the audience started ringing.
So much for complying with executive director Chris Shipley's request to be courteous and "please turn off your cell phone."
Vello users can drag and drop the names of people into groups from Outlook and other contact applications.
What makes it all worthwhile is that conference calls will surely start on time because all participants are called at the same time.
If a user's cell phone service drops them from the call by mistake, any participant can simply call 888 MyVello to be reconnected.
Next up was a company called Tubes Network. This company offers a solution for sharing any kind of content, such as documents, photos, and video.
The desktop icon/visual is neat. It uses the idea of a pneumatic tube as used by banks at drive-up windows to send stuff to the teller. A bit old-fashioned, but for me, the image works.
So users simply place any kind of content inside the tube, click "send ," and the tube is delivered to everyone in the designated group, according to CEO John van Siclen.
Users are not accessing anyone else's hard drive, the content lives on a hosted server run by Tubes.
Tubes can also be made public allowing users to share pics and videos with the world.
The next company, InstaCall, will probably have the Microsoft lawyers working overtime.
Its founder, Sabeer Bhatia, claims InstaCall is "deconstructing Microsoft Office one application at a time."
InstaCall is actually a live document sharing solution that can create a Flash-based application that looks just like any Microsoft Office app.
It starts with the idea of sharing and managing docs by installing a tool bar in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Users click on the file which makes it a shared document.
When a user receives a copy of the document any changes made are immediately synchronized on the server. When the originator opens the the document they will see the updated version.
From the tool bar discussion and chats can be added around the document.
Here's the kicker: If the recipient does not use Office -- which may become more prevalent as, ThinkFree, ZOHO and Google Apps and others start to encroach on the sacrosanct turf owned by Microsoft -- InstaCall will convert the application in to an XML document built using Adobe Flash.
Bhatia claims the Flash version will have "complete feature compatibility with Office 2007." Pretty amazing if true.
And so it goes.