DEMO starts with violent death of a fax machine

DEMO quite literally kicked off with a smashing presentation Monday morning. The first presenter, a maker of a mobile application that eliminates the need for signing and faxing documents, took a baseball bat to a fax machine in a reference to the scene in "Office Space" in which disgruntled cubicle workers destroy a malfunctioning printer.

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Josh Kerr, co-founder of DEMO presenter ABJK NewCo, took his trusty wooden bat on stage and gave three solid whacks to a fax machine before throwing it on the ground, rendering it even more useless than your typical fax.

"This is it, I am through with this fax machine!" Kerr declared, after describing the frustration of waiting for a faxed document, signing the document and faxing it back to the sender. "It's like this ball and chain that tethers me to this office," he said.

ABJK is trying to solve this problem with Zosh, an iPhone application (cost: $2.99) that lets users receive documents on their mobile phones and sign them with their finger. The software is optimized for the mobile phone touchscreen. After clicking on the signature line of a document, you have the option of inserting a signature, other text, the date and image. When you sign with your finger, the background moves from right to left to give you more room, and you can move the signature and resize it to make sure it fits on the appropriate line.

Zosh was one of 10 mobile applications demonstrated at DEMO Monday morning, and one of more than 60 new technologies to be presented during the event, which continues on Tuesday.

"We traveled the whole world looking for the best entrepreneurs and ideas," DEMO conference chief Matt Marshall said in his opening remarks.

While Silicon Valley is the traditional location for DEMO start-ups, Marshall noticed that more than half of the applications received were from outside California, and that a third were outside the United States.

The DEMO presenters are divided into the categories mobile, social media, cloud, consumer and enterprise, but across those categories there is one overarching trend, Marshall said.

"Data is going live," he said. "Data is being crunched live, architected live, distributed live and being consumed live across any platform. Anyone who isn't part of that trend is going to be left behind. Anyone who is sailing that trend is going to have some nice wind behind them."

Divisions between devices such as television sets, computer screens and other devices, including new ones like Apple's iPad, are starting to be blurred, Marshall said. "You should be able to get data live on your TV and that data should no longer be any different than what's on your computer screen," he said.

Other products displayed Monday morning included AppWhirl, which lets anyone make mobile applications in less than five minutes; AppVoyage, a software-as-a-service platform to publish rich mobile apps to the iPhone and Android app stores; and Visiarc's Mobile Documents, which lets smartphone users read and interact with documents without downloading them.After the presentations, a panel of mobile and venture capital experts discussed mobile trends, noting that the market is taking off but cautioning against vendors trying to do too much.

"I see a good focus on aggregation and solving some fundamental problems in mobile," said Lee Williams, executive director of Symbian. "What I didn't see is a full recognition that don't get in the way of the Internet. I'm a little concerned from that standpoint. You could have too much aggregation, too much in the way of trying to create an application store on top of an application store in the middle of an application store."

DEMO presenters focused a lot on the iPhone, and not so much on Google Android, but Google Ventures partner Wesley Chan predicted great things for Android and said the key for mobile app builders is to build services that work across multiple platforms.

"Android is a platform that's growing," he said. "We're selling 60,000 Android phones a day now."

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This story, "DEMO starts with violent death of a fax machine" was originally published by Network World.

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