Ina Fried

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Scott McNealy Has Time on His Hands — and an App for When You Do, Too

Though he has been out of the headlines for a while, former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy has been keeping busy, sitting on the boards of a couple of companies and advising others. Still, that left him with a bit of extra time — time he has been using to help get a new company off the ground.

McNealy’s new venture is called Wayin. It’s a mobile app designed to let users quickly post poll questions from their phone about whatever is going on, whether it is the latest episode of “Dancing With the Stars,” a major news event or the big game.

The idea is that someone is watching something on TV and then turns to his or her phone to post a quick question to others engaged with the same event. In a demo on Wednesday, McNealy quickly responded to several polls in under a minute. People can post queries of their own just by taking a picture — or by choosing one from their photo library and using a preset question or coming up with one of their own.

The app, which has quietly been live in Apple’s App Store for a bit now, officially launched this week. Wayin is free and works on iPhone, Android and the mobile Web. The company hopes to build critical mass through partnerships with sports and media companies, and has announced initial deals with the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins football teams, and with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

Wayin plans to make money by inserting sponsored polls into a user’s stream. For advertisers, it’s a way to get instant feedback on their products and ideas. Polls could even be tied in to the commercials running during the sporting event or other live program being commented on.

“It’s explicit market research,” McNealy said. “There is no inference required.”

Wayin has about 35 employees and is based in Boulder, Colo., once a site of major operations for Sun Microsystems. The company hasn’t taken venture money, but has raised about $6.3 million from early investors.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo