RealTime IT News

Halfbrain Minimizes Application Learning Curve

If you've ever had half a mind to tell off Microsoft about Excel's overloaded lard-ware, stuffed as it is like a pig on a roasting spit with complicated, confusing and extraneous bells and whistles that few people ever use, then you might find half a brain could keep you from losing all your mind.

Application Service Provider Halfbrain.com thinks people should spend more time using the power of spreadsheets rather than playing junior programmer and has launched Brainmatter to make that goal a reality. Brainmatter offers the Solutions Gallery which includes over a hundred pre-built spreadsheets that range from practical real estate calculators and business forms to fun and educational files like calculating Bill Gates' net worth and how much you would weigh on different planets. The site, which appears to have a sense of humor, also encourages members to submit their own works for public consumption.

Ready-to-use spreadsheet categories include business and finance, education, measurement converters, personal finance, forms, sales and marketing, investing and stocks, travel and sports. A search under "Business and Finance" found more than 60 files in sub-categories such as budgeting and accounting, inventory management, expenses, financial statements and invoices, order forms and purchasing. A search under the "House and Home" category found four files for three types of insurance calculations and a hospital costs worksheet. This one was particularly fun since the example illustrates a $150,000 medical bill which, when all the proper expense reimbursements were completed, concluded that the patient would actually make about $700 on the event!

But the real beauty of Halfbrain.com is that the templates are easy to use Web-based productivity software. The programs reside on the Web site so you never have to worry about downloading plug-ins or working through system conflicts. Their first product, BrainMatter, is a full-featured spreadsheet program that runs entirely within a Web browser. And unlike most sites advertising financial applications, it is a place to find many different forms, calculators and spreadsheets. You can access them two ways: either as a fully functional spreadsheet or a fill-in-the-blanks form. Once completed, your files are stored on Halfbrain's secure servers.

Halfbrain.com's spreadsheets and calculators are only accessible using Internet Explorer 4 or 5 or AOL 4 or 5, on Windows. Netscape and Macintosh support is under development. Since use of the site is free, profits are expected to come from advertising, sponsorships and licensing. Licensing works two ways: sites either pay to embed one or more of their calculators into your web site or pay to give your Web visitors access to Halfbrain.

Halfbrain.com is operating off its original $680,000 in seed funding, provided by angels including Bill Krause and Regis McKenna.

"There's a real market for business utility applications which are delivered via web browser," said Yankee Group analyst Eric Klein. "This is definitely a trend that will be very significant in the future, particularly those which are free or for a nominal fee to the user."

Klein feels that it's still too early in the game to quantify the market, but the wide range of potential use for both small businesses and individuals will continue to make this type of application business grow. Partnering will be critical to their success. Then the trick will be to look for non-traditional marketing and advertising to get the company noticed in the crowd of small business web sites currently out there.

 

IN A NUTSHELL

Company Name: Halfbrain.com

Address: 55 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: (415) 579-9500

Fax: N/A

Contact email address: steve@halfbrain.com

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