What do Blinkx, Magnify.net, Splashcast, Panjea, Eyejot, Vringo, and BUZ have in common? They aim to give consumers control of their own media
Uploading video to the Internet is so 2006. Now the question is what to do with those clips once they're in cyberspace. Many of the fledgling companies strutting their stuff at the annual DEMO conference in Palm Desert, Calif., think they have the answer.
Digital video is at the heart of products touted by at least a half-dozen companies at the conference, geared primarily to small companies that are seeking funding and business partnerships. Early on, capitalizing on surging demand for Internet video meant putting together a site that could help users upload, share, and download funny and interesting videos—and providing a showcase for many of the millions of clips coursing through the Net. By and large, that's the formula that helped YouTube fetch a whopping $1.65 billion from Google (GOOG). Now that that deal is done, the bar is a lot higher, and Web surfers are asking, what's next?
Fun with Video
Blinkx is a video-search engine that says it has indexed some 7 million hours of Web content. On Jan. 30, it announced a service called "Blinkx it" that lets Web publishers enhance their sites with video clips culled from Blinkx search results. Another firm, Magnify.net, aims to let Web publishers add user-generated video, much like YouTube does, to their own sites.
Some companies aim to give consumers the ability to create their own so-called personal TV channels. Splashcast is one. Its free service lets users create their own rich media presentations on the Web, combining video, audio, and other content assembled from various sources into one cohesive presentation that can easily be added to a personal Web site or social-networking service, to which others can subscribe. The service is completely Web-based and works on PCs running Microsoft (MSFT) Windows, Apple (AAPL) Macs, and computers running Linux.
Panjea TV also describes itself as letting users create their own "personal TV channel." Users pick their own favorite video clips from various sources, including YouTube, and add them to their own "channel," which plays on their personal Web site or blog. As with Splashcast, other users can subscribe to various channels.
Seattle-based Eyejot is aiming to bring YouTube-like videos to e-mail with a product that uses Adobe's (ADBE) Flash video player. Consumers will be able to create their own video messages that get embedded into e-mail messages.
"What you'll see this year are products that let people take elements from social media sites and assemble them in different ways," says Shel Israel, a longtime DEMO attendee who coaches companies on honing their pitch. He's also a blogger and co-author with Robert Scoble of the book Naked Conversations.
And while several companies are thinking about the personal computer as the primary place where products and services will be used, others are going after wireless phones. BUZ Interactive is launching a service that lets consumers create personalized voice-mail messages or convey a musical birthday greeting that can be delivered to someone's mobile phone without the phone even ringing. The messages can mix personal voices and favorite music.
Another firm, Israel-based Vringo, aims to add video to the $5 billion wireless ringtone business. Video ringtones, known as Vringos, are played when friends call. The videos can be licensed clips from movies, TV shows, or music videos. "There's a lot going on in video, but I think it's about giving the consumer control over the media around them," says DEMO conference head Chris Shipley. "Can I get my own personal TV channel? Can I get a voice-mail message that's personalized and interesting? Can I get video ringtones? Consumers are starting to say, 'I want to control the media around me.'"
Boston-based Zink Imaging has developed a new method of printing without the need for ink cartridges, which is being aimed initially at wireless camera phones. The aim is to ensure that more of those millions of photos snapped on mobile phones—most of them never printed—find their way onto paper. Zink is built around technology developed by Polaroid that uses chemically treated paper instead of a traditional ink-on-paper printing process.
Instead of putting ink cartridges into the printer, as is typical with printers from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Lexmark (LXK), and scores of other printing companies, Zink's process involves embedding the ink into the paper.
When it encounters heat, different layers of ink are activated and appear on the paper. The printing process involves controlling how heat is applied to the paper using thousands of tiny heated print heads. "We can make incredibly small and easy-to-use printers that can print images with the touch of a single button," says Zink Chief Executive Wendy Caswell, a former Polaroid executive. "When you don't have to deal with ink, you don't have to deal with the complexity that ink requires. This lets us get the size of the printer down to the size of something that can fit in your pocket, or which can be embedded into any type of electronic device."