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Comdex Was Yesterday. These Companies Are TOMORROW Internet technologies to watch in 2000.

As you read this, the 20th Comdex will have just come to a close, marking two decades of digital decadence in the desert. But while Comdex is still "the biggest," I'm no longer convinced it's the best. This year's Internet World and NetWorld+Interop shows were brimming with start-ups showing some amazing new technologies. Comdex has become so overblown that many small companies I spoke with avoid it altogether; common complaints include skyrocketing booth costs and fierce competition just to secure floor space--particularly among new and small companies.

So, in September and October, I went on a quest to find the new and less well known companies that fall through the Comdex cracks come November. These companies showed innovative new technologies and, I believe, should be watched closely next year.

If this year's N+I show could be said to have had a theme, it would be IP Telephony. While the big boys rolled out end-to-end VoIP solutions--most notably Cisco, with its AVVID line--smaller companies are also heavily into this market. Nuera Communications, a venture-funded San Diego company, showed ORCA, its Open Reliable Communications Architecture. ORCA is a carrier-class architecture for the packet voice market, with gateways based on Nuera embedded systems, Unix-based softswitched call processing systems, and NT-based application server and network management systems. ORCA supports voice over IP frame relay, ATM, leased circuit, satellite, and fixed wireless links. ORCA is scalable from hundreds of ports per chassis to millions of ports per network. More information: www.nuera.com.

RocketTalk Inc. of Fullerton, California offers free, Web-based voice messaging, with the ability to store messages at the company's Web site. Using the downloadable encoder, users can record and compress (using a proprietary algorithm) voice messages and send them to other RocketTalk users, who can access them from the Web site. For non-RocketTalk users, the message is sent with an embedded player. While the company currently limits message size to two minutes, a message of this length is only about 300Kbit. While the system is similar to Qualcomm's PureVoice, a Eudora add-on, RocketTalk differs in its ability to leave and access messages on the company's servers. More information: www.rockettalk.com.

There's VoIP and voice messaging over IP, so why not merchant transactions billed to your telephone bill? Those wary of credit card transactions over the Internet can use eCharge Phone from eCharge Corp. (Seattle) to bill products and services to their phone bill; the charges appear as a 900 number. eCharge says the company's service appeals to consumers who want to keep credit card and personal information private. Of course, the merchant must support the service. More information: www.echarge.com.

Many start-ups are looking for innovative ways to marry the Web to the everyday applications people use: contact management and calendaring software, email, word processing, and the like. Giage, Ltd. (Cincinnati) is now offering WebSpace, which gets closer to this end than anything I've seen to date. WebSpace integrates the browser (IE) with a directory structure that sits in a panel on one side of the screen. Any information found on the Web (from a highlighted text selection to an entire Web site) can be dragged from the browser window and dropped into a folder. This information can then be linked dynamically to any contact in Outlook or to multiple contacts. This process creates a record with links to all information related to that person or thing: Web sites, online articles, mailing addresses, email contacts, images, and even to existing files on the hard drive. The record can then be sent to other WebSpace users with all links and information intact. Giage (which, incidentally, is an acronym for "guys in a garage") has been working on this technology for three years but the product was just introduced in September. For a limited time, it is available as a free download (6MB). More information: www.giage.com.

The process of linking Web users via chat is nothing new. But a San Francisco-based new media company called eUniverse is using chat in new ways to build communities on the fly. eUniverse is actually a group of sites under one cyber umbrella: these include a CD store, a video store, and online gaming and tournament sites. But what makes them a community rather than just a loose affiliation is LivePlace, a small chat window that is a self-contained Java applet. When users visit any eUniverse site, they can make their online selves known to others online and chat in real time--or leave messages for those offline. LivePlace includes a tool called "collaborative browsing" which enables a user to piggyback on other users and view the same pages they are viewing--at the same time. This facilitates discussion through the chat module. LivePlace also includes 24-hour help (from a real person) via the click of a button. LivePlace only works within the eUniverse confederation of sites, but Brad Greenspan, who created t he technology, says it can be added easily with the proper code. More information: www.euniverse.com.

Taking the idea of online communities one step further is Webb Interactive Services of Denver. Webb has developed an XML-based platform called CommunityWare/XML for creating open, message-based communities. The messages in these communities are XML-tagged, so they can serve as the source for other applications. For example, a customer might fill out a CommunityWare/XML-based request-for-pricing form. The merchant can then have that information delivered in any format necessary: pager, fax, mail, voice, or even instant message (Webb supports the Open Source Instant Messaging Movement, which employs XML as the standard for IM communications). Webb is seeking to harness the power of XML by integrating multiple XML-based applications into its platform, including email, calendaring, discussion groups, and chat. Another component, called CommunityWare/XML Publish, offers XML templates for building and updating Web sites that have separate content and presentation structures (unlike HTML, where the two are married). More information: www.webb.net.

Vaporware is never a pretty thing, but it was much in evidence at Internet World, and some of it was funded by the huge venture cap firm CMGI, so it was hard to miss. One company/site that at show time was not yet live but coming was MyWay.com (formerly Planet Direct) which should be live by the time you read this. MyWay.com is both a consumer-targeted infoportal and a corporate-solutions provider of portal services in the vein of MyYahoo and others. But MyWay.com (Andover, MA) promises to be more customizable and modular, allowing corporate licensees and solutions providers (including, presumably, resellers and integrators) to customize the look, feel, and content of the portal itself. MyWay.com is seeking to build a framework that allows companies to quickly and easily create audience-specific, Web-based desktops rather than build them from the ground up--a process that can cost millions for a big corporation. More information: www.myway.com.

Also in the portal space but with more of a project collaboration/team management flair is QuickTeam. At the .com site of the same name, members of a project team can set up group scheduling, document sharing, discussion threading, and task management pages--some of which can be updated when work is done offline. Integrated paging, group surveys, and a voting module help disparate team members stay in contact. QuickTeam Express is a free "lite" version of the software; the Professional edition will be for lease or purchase and should be available by the time you read this. More information: www.quickteam.com.

The emerging importance of network switching is being driven by high-priority data, including ecommerce, but prioritizing traffic with current Layer 3 and 4 switching is complex and difficult to implement. A venture-funded start-up called Top Layer Networks (Westboro, MA) has rolled Out a Layer 7 switching solution that guarantees bandwidth and QoS for data streams and users. AppSwitch 2000 differentiates among data types and then provisions bandwidth by application type, user, and transaction type. It allows enterprises to prioritize traffic such as ecommerce buyers versus browsers, and enables service providers to control the delivery of services based on customer-specific agreements and individual account status (see Fig). In Q3, the company introduced AppWizard, which allows organizations to set and automatically enforce traffic priorities for strategic--including custom-built--applications, based on an array of organizationally-defined factors such as specific transaction types, the current relative load, other traffic types on the network, and time of day. AppWizard can also redirect a custom application's data to a specific network link for optimal network infrastructure performance. More information: www.toplayer.com.
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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event
Author:Piven, Joshua
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Words:1424
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