I was home on Monday and watching the live stream of the TechCrunch50 conference. The first demo I saw was Geni’s Yammer, which is a group messaging platform much like Twitter, except that it’s aimed at the enterprise. With Yammer, you can send a constant stream of data about the work you’re working on (or not working on) to your colleagues. Mark is now writing a blog.
A rare photo of Ashton Kutcher in a professional environment.
I was home on Monday and watching the live stream of the TechCrunch50 conference. The first demo I saw was Geni’s Yammer, which is a group messaging platform much like Twitter, except that it’s aimed at the enterprise.
With Yammer, you can send a constant stream of data about the work you’re working on (or not working on) to your colleagues. MarkS is writing a blog, MarkS is playing an asteroid, and MarkS is on Twitter. You can also post news and links and share your opinion. There is also a bulletin board mode to group conversations into threads. The service is free for employees to use, but if the company wants to take on the management of the app, it will have to pay Yammer for the privilege.
I know some people love Twitter, but it’s primarily social. For me, dropping it into the context of the workplace would change everything. When I’m at work, I want to work, not socialize. And if something comes up that’s worth discussing, it’s better to do it face to face. In real time, Yammer seems to be a distraction.
Then I thought: well, they’re probably saving the product for the last day or two of a really cool meeting. I was wrong. Yammer won the grand prize. And after seeing the other winners this year, I am a bit underwhelmed by the whole batch. The new apps, services, and gadgets that have won TechCrunch 50 awards feel like they are either a little twist on an existing product, something that works well, or a product that is just not useful at all. This year’s winners provide an opportunity for that “aha” moment when a product’s innovation, usefulness, and potential broad appeal suddenly becomes apparent to you.
Atmosphir is a game development platform that allows anyone to create multi-level games.
Fitbit is a small gadget that clips onto clothing and tracks and reports on calorie burn and sleep patterns and more through a web interface.
GoodGuide is a website that provides extensive information about the health, environmental, and social impacts of the products you buy and the companies that make them. This is great, but Greenzer and Zeer (both in beta) are already doing something similar and already have an active user community. Zeer offers a mobile app (very useful), but GoodGuide is still working on an iPhone app.
Grockit is an online space where students can get together to study and quiz each other. Sounds pretty good to me. Do I really need a special tool for that? Can’t use a multi-user IM program or Basecamp, etc.?
Swype, one of this year’s runners-up, made me think that it could be very useful. Invented by the same man who invented T9 predictive texting (not to be confused with Cliff Kushler, the equally famous Ashton Kutcher), which is used in millions of cell phones today, Swype allows you to select and connect letters. Touch screen by drawing a line between them using your finger or a pen stylus. This technology, if it actually works well, will definitely be swallowed up by Motorola, Apple and other major cell phone manufacturers, but it is not an independent product.
This doesn’t mean a swipe against TechCrunch50 and the people who run it. I will only comment on the series of companies that won this year. Obviously, the conference has no control over the quality of companies that sign up to participate. The conference also includes panel discussions and keynote speeches. I’ve heard this is great (this year, Ashton Kutcher said he spoke!!!) I’ve heard this is great (this year, Ashton Kutcher spoke!!).
But I suspect that demos and events like TechCrunch50 (where companies take only 5 or 6 minutes to show off their products) will be the forum where the big tech products of tomorrow will debut.