Five Hundred iPhones, One Paperless Conference

Reporter’s Notebook: SAN FRANCISCO — Demos, panel discussions, product introductions. The Office 2.0 conference had all these typical trade show elements, but the producers went out on a limb to mix things up a bit with new and different elements. For starters, each paid attendee (no love for the freeloading press folks) received an Apple iPhone before the show.

The idea behind this perk was to encourage the attendees to try new mobile application and perhaps learn a bit about workflow and collaboration at the show. Using applications for the iPhone developed by Etelos, an exhibitor at the event, attendees were able to exchange contact information with other attendees and exhibitors, schedule meetings with participants, and provide real-time feedback during sessions.

Office 2.0 was also a “paperless” event, no conference brochures or paper press kits were distributed. All the conference details, including session times and locations, were on the iPhones. There also weren’t any of typical conference tote bags to distribute and the registration process was a quick affair. Overall, it was a very “green” conference in keeping with the latest trends.

I’m sure the conference organizers took a big gulp and tried hard to think happy thoughts after the news broke this week that Apple  decided to drop the price of the iPhone by $200 and discontinued the 4 GB model, the one the Office 2.0 group distributed to its 500 attendees.

Hopefully, they’ll have better luck with their post-show sale. Attendees were notified this week that the 60 brand new big screen (24-inch) model iMacs show organizers purchased for the event, would be available immediately after the event at a twenty percent discount ($1,560 taxes included, instead of $1,947).

Anyway, I’ll give them kudos for trying something different with the iPhone; it was still a good perk for attendees.

Another wrinkle, a so-called “Launch Pad” event, needs, to put it charitably, more fine-tuning. The idea was to have companies give brief pitches (three minutes max) for a new product, service or news. It was a bit like one of those also-ran TV award shows when they call out some pseudo celebrity’s name, and it turns out they’re not in attendance. Several company names were called who didn’t show. There was also a premise that the pitches wouldn’t be product demos and limited to one slide – two rules several presenters routinely ignored.

The Future of Desktop Computing?

That said, I did hear about a few neat new products at the Launch Pad.

A company called PanoLogic formally launched at Office 2.0. Billed as “The Future of Desktop Computing” (like so many other thin client solutions; where have these guys been?), the company’s “Pano” is 9 cubic inches of shiny hardware small enough to hold in your hand.

There is no CPU inside the Pano, only an FPGA, while the desktop OS, applications and storage “lives” on a remote server and managed using server virtualization. Energy consumption for the Pano is, at two watts, more than 100 times less than a typical desktop PC. The device is being sold now on a subscription basis.

“The desktop computing industry has fallen down,” said Nick Gault, CEO of Pano Logic. Gault is the former CEO and founder of virtualization developer XenSource. “Everyone but Apple has forgotten how important it is to fall in love with your computer; except for notebooks, desktops suck,” he said, eliciting a few nods and giggles from the audience. “We’re bringing design back to the endpoint.”

Another company, Diigo, showed a neat service called WebSlides that lets you create slide show of live Web pages. (Yes, we are definitely running out of good new tech names. Go directly to the head of the class if you already guessed Diigo is an acronym for Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff).

You can see a demo of WebSlides here. WebSlides lets you create a guided tour of different Web sites in a matter of minutes for educational, business or entertainment purposes. The WebSlides can be annotated with, for example, your own voice over or music. Each WebSlide has a unique URL and can be e-mailed, or embedded in a Website or blog.

“All you need is a Web browser,” said Maggie Tsai, co-founder of Diigo. The beta release of WebSlides is available now.

David Needle is West Coast Bureau Chief for

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