New Buzzwords

SAN FRANCISCO (03/03/2000) - Now that the dust has settled from February's semiexclusive Demo 2000 conference, all that remains is a mountain of press kits. As always, the number of new products at the show was rivaled only by the number of new buzzwords.

Dial M for money: "M-commerce" (i.e., mobile commerce, or e-commerce via cell phone) earns Reboot's buzzword-of-the-show award. Israel-based TeleVend showed off "m-able" technology that turns your cell phone into a wireless debit card.

For instance, at a vending machine, simply punch in a number on your phone and your order is routed over the cellular network to a remote server. Next thing you know, out pops an ice-cold Coke. Will TeleVend succeed with its promised fourth-quarter national rollout? Or will it be like many other e-payments in the U.S. - always a beta test, never going live?

Special ed: "Edu-commerce" also crossed many lips at Demo, as Unext.com, NotHarvard.com and NinthHouse all promised to improve online training.

NinthHouse, which delivers lessons over corporate intranets about leadership and team-building, seems the slickest of the three. The San Francisco company even has cast members from Party of Five and Ally McBeal in videogame-like simulations. But these powerful graphics require broadband networks. Small companies and individuals might get shut out of the classroom, unless a narrowband version comes along.

To be or not to be: Be Inc., the Menlo Park, Calif., company founded by Jean-Louis Gassee, unveiled BeIA, a software platform for the growing flock of Internet appliances. At the show: a BeIA-powered wireless Web pad and a countertop Web terminal. Maybe companies like Be are getting ahead of themselves: There seem to be more thin client operating systems than people using the hardware.

VAPORWATCH

The Product: Amiga

The Player: Amiga Inc.

The Promise: Amiga 4.0 operating system, the long-awaited upgrade to a multimedia relic of the '80s that still boasts an aging cult followingTime Elapsed: Fifteen years. The operating system has been shuffled around among companies more times than the original Mrs. Fields cookie recipe.

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