Deja Demo

from the day-two dept

The second day of presentations at DEMO are now over, and again the various blogs and press reports are everywhere describing this or that product from the 70 or so companies that presented. As some of the presenters have noted, the real trick while being here is to compete for (a) press coverage and (b) money — and you’re competing against the other 70+ companies here, rather than your traditional competition. So, my summary post for Day Two is pretty simple: “Isn’t this just like ______, but with ______?” An awful lot of the presentations today (and, yesterday) could be described this way — as long as you fill in the blanks properly. There was very little that seemed amazingly new. Most of the ideas are ones that have been seen before (sometimes many times), with slight modifications — sometimes just cosmetic ones. And, in some cases, those modifications were so minor as to appear trivial. In talking with one company, it was easy to rattle off three or four names of similar startups coming up with similar, if slightly different products on a similar theme. The guy I spoke to diligently described how each one was different — but it was always in such a marginal way to seem sort of silly. No end user was going to make a decision based on that. The other thing I noticed was that a number of companies were tackling similar problems that other companies have worked on for years, but coming at it from a different angle — sometimes leading to presentations where the setup was “have you ever had problem X?” where the real answer is “no, not really, that was a pretty minor issue that we’ve already worked around, and we’re certainly not going to spend a bunch to paste over that one fault of our existing system and need to retrain everyone.” Still, one thing that you hope, in seeing all this stuff that’s been talked about over the past decade, but this time with a fresh coat of paint, is that maybe (just maybe), it actually works this time.

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Comments on “Deja Demo”

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DV Henkel-Wallace says:

"just like ______, but with ______" is good

Actually the first generation of anything usually sucks. It’s the later ones that are better — but usually nobody (including the inventor) knows exactly which variation is the right one.

“Isn’t this iPod just like the creative players, but with that goody wheel?” (Slashdot’s Malda famously summarized it the day it was announced as “Heavier. Smaller display. No wireless. Lame.”).

“Isn’t Berners-Lee’s ‘World Wide Web’ just Nelson’s Xanadu but with all the backwards links missing?”

“Isn’t Ethernet an inferior version of SNA but with a clever ‘retransmission’ gimmick?”


On the other hand truly sui generis inventions like, say, the Segway, well, really are lame.

This isn’t to say that the companies you saw aren’t

Alex Moskalyuk (profile) says:

Totally agree

I kinda liked Orb Networks out of all the companies I read, but all the Wiki/blog/aggregator companies kinda give me an uneasy feeling we’re experiencing another bubble, where hype precedes the technology. I mean, come on, how can a Wiki or RSS aggregation company make money, if a 12-year-old kid can hack a similar script or install a similar open-source product in a day.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Totally agree

Someone else asked me about this, and my take was that most of the “blog” companies there were simply taking an existing product, making a few minor tweaks, and calling it a blogging product. So, really companies that were trying to find a new channel for existing products.

However, some of them just seemed silly.

A blogging appliance? Um. Sure.

Actually, as one VC pointed out to me, it was incredible how many “appliances” were being shown — all in different day-glo colors. She said she had visions of CIOs having racks full of multi-colored appliances until she realized that… it was never going to happen. Most of the appliances are useless. They should just be supplying software that CIOs can install on existing equipment.

Alex Moskalyuk (user link) says:

Re: Re: Totally agree

The problem with shipping just the software is that in many cases the software sold would not add any value over any available open-source project. Not to trumpet open source mindlessly, but what most of the appliances deal with? E-mail filtering, network monitoring, intranet portals, malware protection. All perfectly doable with some freebie available online, and companies who want to charge have to try hard to offer better products than baseline open source. Putting it in a shiny box and calling it an appliance seemingly increases value of the product being sold.

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