John Paczkowski

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Next up at TechCrunch40: Mobile and Communications

techcrunch_demoDigital Daily’s John Paczkowski is blogging from TechCrunch40 in San Francisco. Technical difficulties at the conference site prevent him from live-blogging, so he is summarizing with the following report on the second session.

  • Jason Calacanis is back onstage, describing the voting process employed by a panel of judges (which will be done with poker chips).
  • Cubic Telecom takes the stage. Discussing trials and tribulations of traveling internationally with cellphone, including roaming charges. Up comes a slide of CEO’s phone bill from two weeks in France: $14,000. Next is a screen of cubic’s MaxRoam service, which is launching today. Allows you to make every international call made on your mobile a local call. (First demo failure. No signal.) The company notes, nevertheless, that you can put as many numbers on the phone as you like.
  • Yap is next. Company rep says “We speech-enable your mobile Web. … the product literally speaks for itself.” (Hardy, har, har.) Voice texting. Advertising. Keywords pull up text ads. Example: “We should get coffee” pulls up a location-specific Starbucks ad. (Presenter complaining about lack of connectivity in conference room.) Tech meltdown on stage, GSM trouble, audio trouble as well. Presenter desperately trying to demo some sort of Yap-twitter application. But: “server not found.” Moving on to the next demo …
  • Ceedo is next. This is a lightweight virtualization platform, now introducing a new product: Ceedo mobile, a “self-contained device.” The application allows a user to put PC applications on a phone’s flash memory. The user can then connect phone to any PC and use it to launch a localized version of that user’s original PC. These standard PC applications are stored on phone and launched virtually. The demonstration begins with a launch of Picasa from phone. Picasa brings up users’ pictures and Picasa editing tools, etc. Then, pulls up blogger, exports Picasa photos to blogger application and creates blog post. If I understand it correctly, Ceedo acts as an interface between phone user and Web. Why anyone needs such an interface is beyond me. (Presumably, that’s why there’s no mention of business model.)
  • Yap is back onstage after the earlier tech meltdown. In a nutshell, we’re told, Yap is “making text messaging while driving safer” with speech-to-text-messaging application for mobile devices. Well, this is odd. … Yap, apparently in a nod to Britney Spears, is lip-syncing the presentation. The whole thing was prerecorded. Presenters are ad-libbing, uncomfortably, over the audio track.
  • LoudTalks, the next presenter takes the stage. (Hails from Russia, and with no company logo on the screen behind presenter, I have no idea what company he represents.) Ah, here it is: LoudTalks. Internet walkie-talkie. (Hmmm. Looks like we’re about to see another demo drown onstage. Volume control issues. Demoed conversation is unintelligible; perhaps a better name for the company would be “SoftTalks.”) The Internet’s walkie-talkie is apparently having talkie issues. (Speaking of Internet walkie-talkies, isn’t that what most audio chat applications are these days?) Calacanis to the rescue! He takes the stage, somehow resolves the volume issue. (Q: “How’s the weather in St. Petersburg?” A: (from LoudTalks rep in Russia) “Very cold.”
  • TruTap now on. “Our inspiration as a company is to bring the social life of young people to one, free, universal, mobile service.” Begin demoing UI: Web 2.0 design cliche. Application offers blogging, IM, messaging, contacts, social networks, broadcast messaging (one-to-many, a la Twitter) all in a single interface. User can log onto a variety of IM clients and social networks simultaneously. The beta version is available on AT&T. (My god … Trutap developers take stage and perform Boys-II-Men-style jingle. What a multitalented bunch (and apparently quite at home with public humiliation.)
  • Judges panel. Judges take stage after Calacanis remarks on the kindness and restraint they’ve shown in their assessments so far. Implores them to be more critical. Pull no punches. That shouldn’t be difficult, given the quality of the presentations we’ve seen so far. That said, many of the judges seem to have a penchant for speaking too far from the mike, so it’s impossible to tell if any of them are following through. Guess we’ll have to watch presenter expressions to see if there are any hurt feelings.
  • The surprisingly audible Marc Andreessen asks the same distribution question he asked of the last group of presenters.
  • Inaudible Om Malik question met with unintelligible answer from Ceedo guy.
  • Calacanis asks Wired’s Chris Anderson if he’s seen a company yet that he’d profile in Wired. Judging from Anderson’s evasive redirection of a reply, the answer seems to be no.
  • Engadget’s Ryan Block notes that Yap’s application is dependent on connection to the cloud. essentially useless without it and at this point in time at least, there are lots of folks who aren’t connected to the cloud. Yap rep ducks question with the standard “That’s something we’re already aware of and working on a solution to address.”
  • Calacanis asking Om which company wll be here five years from now as
    an independent company, Andreessen which is most likely to get angel funding. Andreessen says he’d use Ceedo, but isn’t sure about business model, noting that presenters have a tough road ahead of them if they don’t have distribution from major carriers. Om says TruTap is most likely to be bought, and Cubic most likely to be around five years from now. Quite the endorsements, given palpable lack of excitement with which he delivers them.

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