At lunch today, George Ou and I were talking about the fact that Mondays are usually a wasted day at most conferences because nothing significant other than registration happens. That was definitely not the case at this conference. My first session was at 9:00 AM and there were three tracks of sessions before lunch, another track after lunch, keynotes at 2:45 PM, and the Expo Hall did its grand opening from 5:30-7:00 PM.
Here's my Day 1 spotlight:
Since I'm a media guy, I was naturally pumped up that my first session of the day was called, "Media 2.0: How Web 2.0 is Transforming Traditional Media." However, this was one of those truly forgettable conference sessions that lacked substance and featured a group of panelists who were commenting on something that was out of their league. The panelists acted as if no one on earth reads newspapers anymore and made some shallow and uninformed assertions about the future business models of publishing companies. I won't mention any names, but these guys need to stick to building applications.
The only exception was Techmeme's Gabe Rivera, who made several useful observations and seemed to be the only one on the stage who realized that media is about content and not the tools to find the content. As one puzzled audience member remarked, someone still has to create the content to aggregate and bloggers can't be the only answer.
Next time the conference organizers do this session, they need to get some panelists who have some legitimate experience in publishing and some more developed thoughts about its future. I'd recommend my colleague Dan Farber from ZDNet, my friend Colin Crawford over at IDG, and Sam Whitmore from Media Survey. That group, in addition to Gabe, would have fleshed out some really interesting insights on what Web 2.0 means for the future of publishing and its readers.
Additional note (4/17): On Tuesday I went to a similar panel on Social Networking (and moderated by the same person as the Media 2.0 panel) but it had a superstar lineup and they provided some great insights.
The Global Hosted Operating System (G.ho.st) was a very interesting find -- both for the product itself and the team that created it. The product, which officially launched its Alpha release today, is a browser-based operating system that is based on Flash and competes with YouOS. It includes its own file system (where you can upload up to 2 GB of files), some basic desktop widgets like a clock and a calculator, and some nice drag and drop functionality (by interacting with the API) for Google Docs and Flickr. And, of course, you can run any Web-based apps like Meebo IM within the Web browser in G.ho.st. Here's quick screenshot:
In the quick tryout that I did, the performance was much better than I expected, even on the crappy WiFi network at the conference. The CEO of G.ho.st, Dr. Zvi Schreiber, told me that the performance is good because all of the processing is done at the local level. "When you log in, we send you two to three megabytes of Flash," said Schreiber. After that, G.ho.st acts like a local app until you logout, when it saves your current state so that you can start at the same place the next time you log in. Schreiber said that this could be useful to businesses because they could use it as a way to allow employees to access their personal computing environment at work without allowing them to put any of those apps or files on their business machine.
As for the G.ho.st team, it is a mix of 15 Israelis and Palestinians and the significance of that is certainly not lost on Schreiber. "We get along great," Scheiber said with a smile, "because we respect each other and we've got an exciting product to work on."
Nokia Smartphone Widgets
I'm surprised by the scarcity of mobile vendors here, but one that is difficult to miss is Nokia, which has a huge presence at the show. Today, Nokia unveiled standards-based widgets for its S60 smartphone platform (based on Symbian OS). The widgets themselves include some of the standard things you would expect, such as a newsreader from Reuters and a Weatherbug dashboard, but what I found truly innovative was the mobile browser that they run on.
The Web browser in the S60 platform (which runs across a variety of Nokia's mid-level to high-end phones) is the most sophistated mobile browser that I've seen. The usability, readability, and performance are excellent, and it made me look down in pity at my Treo 700. I was especially impressed with the S60 browser on the E-series Nokia smartphones, which are the enterprise devices that compete with the Treo, the BlackBerry, and the Motorola Q. And I was a little surprised (and embarassed at my ignorance) to learn that these Symbian-powered Nokia smartphones can do the same kind of push-mail as the market-leading smarties. After the Web 2.0 Expo, I'm planning to do some more research and coverage of the Nokia smartphones.