It's a few minutes before the press dinner at the Demo 07 conference on Wednesday and syndicated technology columnist Larry Magid, a CBS News contributor, is having a discussion with a podcaster about the new media environment. He casually mentions how he has been encouraged by CBS News management not to worry too much about producing a technically polished report from Demo. Shaky, handheld video? Spotty audio? No problem. Big media wants to look more like YouTube.
Many of the companies that presented at Demo during the afternoon session have seen the shifting media landscape. That's why they are offering tools to make content creation easier for everyone.
Panjea and SplashCast want to enable users to create and organize channels of content, as opposed to specific clips. Magnify.net wants the same thing. Mixpo also facilitates video publishing, though it aims not to provide a channel so much as a multimedia showcase that users can place on their Web sites.
Then there's VUVOX, which lets users collect, create, and publish photos, video, and music, gathering them from PCs, RSS, or Web sites and publishing them on their own sites. For the video-averse, Yodio can will help users create, publish, buy, and sell audio recordings, such as podcasts.
For all the fascination with consumer content creation, some companies remained focused on the enterprise. Triumfant showed off automated IT problem resolution software. It didn't quite have the sizzle of the consumer video apps, but for IT administrators it looked like something that could save a lot of time and labor.
Labor savings through automation was a common goal among the enterprise-focused presentations. SailPoint, for example, debuted its Compliance IQ software to help organizations track and analyze user application access rights as a means to mitigate regulatory risk.
Yet even among companies focused on businesses, the influence of consumer software was evident. SOASTA's automated Web app testing software, for example, employed the timeline interface used in Apple's GarageBand and many other audio and video applications.
At the press dinner, Demo conference founder Chris Shipley held court with Enrique Salem, group president of the consumer business unit at Symantec, Tom Gillis, SVP of marketing for IronPort Systems, Bob Brewin, CTO of Sun, and Rob Pait, director of global consumer electronics marketing for Seagate.
Everyone agreed that consumer-oriented technology was driving the market. The significance of the trend can be seen in the ways the panelist's respective companies are changing.
Seagate, makers of commodity hard drives, is trying to become more of a consumer electronics company with its Dave portable storage device for mobile phones. Sun is trying to raise its profile as a source of Web 2.0 innovation, having advanced open source and Java for years only to see other companies ride its wave. Symantec is finding that its enterprise and consumer businesses are intertwined, as issues like online banking security affect both camps. And while IronPort itself isn't in the consumer market, it was recently acquired by Cisco, which has been broadening its focus into the consumer space through LinkSys.
The challenge faced by these companies and the change offered by the startups presenting at the show reflects the breakdown of barriers in the tech industry. Hardware companies are getting into software. Software companies are getting into hardware. Everyone is trying to make it work together, mostly.
As Shipley and the panelists observed, technology companies now aim to deliver a positive user experience. It might seem absurd to think it could be any other way, but the fact is that before everything became networked and interconnected, innovation wasn't expected to bring usability to the party.