The big unwrapping of technological holiday gifts was rolling into its second day as I inched through the fog from Escondido down to Harbor Island in San Diego to see more Demo products. Commuting to Demo at turtle speed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gave me the time I wanted to listen to some of the pod casts from the show.
(Gratuitous transition here) Back to what I love, new products at Demo.
Sometimes, you have to sit back and think about what you’ve seen on stage or in the Demonstrators’ pavilion.
Retrevo.com-- a fresh startup that’s hoping to cut the time it takes you to find the precise piece of information you need amid cluttered web searches.
Retrevo addresses a problem that several of my supposed technologically hip friends snivel about..
Their complaint: they have to scroll through page after page of Google query answers to get precisely what they were searching for. Lets say you had just inherited a five-year-old technological artifact that came with cables, power supplies and software but no instructions. Not only are you clueless about how it all fits together but your ten year old daughter/tech support specialist is away at soccer camp and you want to use the equipment now. With Retrevo, you’d type in the product’s name and, presto, there on the screen is a link to the user’s manual.
Not a bad idea for a product when you think about it. In fact it’s such a natural Tektronix hard coded the documentation URLs into virtually all of their networked printers back in early 1990’s.
And it’s because I know this little factoid that I would also have picked Retrevo for Demo. They have a chance at a legitimate business play. If Retrevo can sell sponsorships and paid links successfully (potential clients include any electronics or peripheral maker whose equipment is likely to pass to second generation owners sans documentation).
Will Google’s Larry or Sergi give this company one second’s worth of worrisome thought? Not likely. But that works in start-ups like Retrevo.com’s favor. Because while Google turns its brand into an umbrella for sundry applications, brash startups can fill their larders with some very profitable niche leavings
GrandCentral—has the potential to run flat out and is loaded with great features.
The concept here is extremely simple; you have one phone number, for life, no matter where you are. An incoming call can ring all your numbers at one time (which anecdotally is a feat that hasn’t happened for me since shortly after I hit puberty) or just one number. Alternatively, an incoming phone call can be sent directly into voice mail hell.
Things I really love about this start up is its web interface and application., which lets me manage my messages from afar and which also lets me hear my email, voice mail and text messages audibly on my computer. This startup is already generating a lot of buzz and is extremely powerful. For example if you opt for its 1.499 a month premium account you have up six phones, and God forbid, the ability to store voice mail for life as well as unlimited talk minutes per month. Both versions offer the ability to record and store conversations at any time during a call and feature a spam blocker you’re sure to love, no matter where you are when the phone rings. The free version of GrandCenttral offers 100 minutes of talk time per month
The free version of GrandCentral is one of the most powerful offerings I’ve ever seen in this categoey. My recently fledged daughter (whose only phone is her T-Mobile cell) and I will be riding the Grand Central line in the next few weeks.
I’ve always been a sucker for unified messaging technology and Grand Central rings my chimes like no other company since Bill Nyuen’s OneBox (which sold for about $850 million and made a box car load of cash for its founders and investors. GrandCentral could go par financially with OneBox.
A brief note of caution about exit strategies in the Unified Messaging category: Over the years I’ve seen several companies in this space get cocky because they thought they understood Telcos or nassumed a B-School buddy who worked for a CLAC or other telco as a biz development specialist offered a profitable and quick egress path. The problem with this ytpe of thinking is that in most phone companies, biz development specialists arefive or six layers away from decision makers and that most long-term execs in t his space are from another industrial age. Having said that, I would hope that Sprint, Verizon or Cingular would add the features of grandCentral as a value adder for wireless voice and data accounts. Of course, if they did they would no longer be able to charge for like-services they now have as revenue centers. Don’t believe me, go to www.grandcentral.com and check it out.
Pinger—the Pinger instant voice messaging service is another one of the applications that really caught my attention at Demo. What I like about pinger is it lets me send voice mails to individuals or groups regardless of what cell carrier they use. I also think this applications voice interface hits a high note in usuability. Pinger makes it easy to upload individual and group numbers and or to any phone from www.Pinger.com . It’s a sure bet that any of the people headed to my house for Thanksgiving dinner are going to get a Pinger message or two in the days and hours before I begin carving the turkey. Come to think of it, you can do the same for your family since if you sign up before Oct.1, the service will be free for the first six months.
Well, in the words of my childhood idol, Bugs Bunny, “That’s All (for now)”. I need to hit the bunny trail up to my ancestral home in Azusa, CAto take my aged mother out for an airing and some grocery shopping.—Jim Forbes 09/28/2006. More on Demo later today.