Despite the cloudy economic future, companies are still seeking and finding investors -- as the DemoMobile conference this week in La Jolla, Calif., will demonstrate. From industry stalwarts such as Microsoft Corp. and Logitech Inc. to small, not quite so well-known companies such as Tcom, innovation is alive and well.
While the Microsoft Windows-powered Smart Display, code-named Mira, was unveiled by chairman Bill Gates last year, this year the Big Red one is demonstrating live products from real manufacturers such as ViewSonic Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., NEC Corp., and Philips.
Smart Displays will come with built-in IEEE 802.11x capability, allowing corporate and consumer users to undock a flat-panel desktop-size display and roam while maintaining complete access to all desktop files. Smart Displays will also offer a monitor with a touch-screen display.
Some manufacturers such as View Sonic are also considering offering Bluetooth for a wireless connection to a keyboard.
Microsoft's Remote Data Protocol in Windows XP Professional is the engine that keeps the CPU connected to the monitor. Units will ship in the first quarter, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.
Fremont, Calif.-based Logitech, another industry giant in the input segment of the high-tech market, will be on hand demonstrating its new Logitech io Personal Digital Pen.
The pen features a built-in optical sensor and uses paper with a pre-printed pattern of dots. Handwriting is stored in the pen's 1MB of Flash memory. When a user returns to his or her desk, the pen is docked in a USB cradle and the data saved in a proprietary .Pen file format that can be downloaded into almost any standard software package, including Outlook, Word, and Lotus Notes.
Tcom International, based in Seattle, will also be a part of the Devices segment of the DemoMobile show with an "intuitive" cable management system called Oyster. The unit contains a USB hub plus storage and other port options.
Mobility is more and more about wireless technology, and not just users moving around, and three presenters at the show will offer unique wireless solutions.
Green Packet, also based in Fremont, will demonstrate its SONbuddy technology that allows wireless users -- whether on a wireless LAN or wide area network -- to leverage each others network connections in order to hop across networks to reach a targeted user or site at the other end. The peer-to-peer technology turns each device into a router and repeater.
Prior to this appearance at DemoMobile, Green Packet demonstrated its technology that allows for seamless switching between IEEE 80211x networks and wide area networks.
An interactive, wireless Post It Note is how executives at PocketThis, based in Oakland, Calif., describe a data service they will sell to carriers who, in turn, will offer to its customers. PocketThis is currently signing up content providers who will display a PocketThis button on their sites. Users highlight the information they want to send and click on the button.
Vocera Communications, based in Cupertino, Calif., has a new twist on wireless with its instant voice communications system. Using IEEE 802.11x technology, Vocera is targeted at in-building communications between users. Vocera claims its technology may replace walkie-talkie and paging systems.
While 3G is still getting most of the hype as the platform for high-speed wireless data communications, there are other players out there. Flarion Technologies, based in Bedminister, N.J., is one of those that uses Flash OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) technology to create a single IP-based wireless network. The Flarion technology overlays the carrier's current system and will offer data rates of 1.2Mbps.
Bitfone based in Laguna Niguel, Calif., will demonstrate an over-the-air technology that allows handset manufacturers to fix bugs and upgrade protocols stored in firmware on the cell phone.
"By working with the handset manufacturers, we are able to put a small 30KB agent on the phone," said Sunil Marolia, a company spokesperson.
Remote firmware-level bug fixes could prevent massive handset recalls, Marolia noted.
Managing wireless networks is another challenge being tackled by innovators at DemoMobile.
Microsoft is back again, introducing Broadband Networking, a Wi-Fi network-in-a-box solution that it hopes will make it easier for consumers and small-business or home-office users to set up a local area IEEE 802.11x network.
The system comes with a base station, wireless air cards, and easy-to-follow instructions, according to the company.
Additional companies demonstrating products that help set up and manage networks include Idetic, based in Berkeley, Calif., which will introduce its Far Reach Platform. A cross between middleware and a gateway, Idetic (which means a photographic memory) has developed a high-performance and scalable transaction management platform.
Using the Far Reach Platform, carriers will be able to lower the data traffic on the network through compression and protocol optimization so that downloads can be as much as four to 10 times faster, according to Paul Scanlan, vice president of marketing at Idetic.
NetMotion Wireless in Seattle, is tackling the growing trend of users who want to roam between networks, such as IEEE 802.11 and wide area cellular. Its NetMotion Mobility 4.0 technology creates a roaming environment that is not only seamless but also able to intelligently place the user on the optimal network depending on location.
Roaming may be fine, but roaming without security is not. ReefEdge, based in Fort Lee, N.J., will demonstrate a security solution that does not require additional hardware. The software solution will work with various radio technologies including all flavors of IEEE 802.11x and Bluetooth.
Meanwhile, as wireless networks become more ubiquitous network managers will demand the same level of management capabilities they now have with their wired networks. This is the marketing solution now being offered by Cyneta Networks, based in Richardson, Texas, with a network analyzer called Intelligent Packet Control Node. The analyzer will offer managers ways to evaluate and regulate wireless network traffic.
At the end of the day, after all the infrastructure and middleware management players offer their technology, it comes down to whether or not business and consumer users will want to access data over small devices.
One company offering a new user interface to make small screens more palatable is Geophoenix in Cambridge, Mass. Its Zoominator product helps content providers display complex data in a small space.
Finally, Pen&Internet has a new user interface that is fearlessly flying in the face of Microsoft's Ink technology. Like Ink, Advanced Notes Recognition can convert handwritten notes to text as well as charts for Web-based applications. Pen&Internet is located in Sunnyvale, Calif.