The afternoon session at the DemoFall '05 conference featured 21 demonstrations of wildly varying quality. Many of the worst ones suffered at the hands of the conference's completely unreliable network; one can't help but wonder whether Michael Brown has been made Demo's network admin.
Best product: With an admitted bias toward consumer hardware, my favorite product of the afternoon was the 205 Pro keyboard, made by San Jose company United Keys. Instead of that row of mysterious function keys found on virtually every keyboard, the 205 Pro has 12 small 20x20-pixel keytop displays--little, monochrome LCDs that can display an icon or an animation of your choosing. Did you know that the F12 key shortcuts to "Save as..."? Me neither, until I pushed it two seconds ago. Wouldn't it be better to have Windows' little Save disc icon pictured on that key, instead of F12? Wouldn't it be even better to pick what F12 does and choose an icon to match? The 205 Pro's included layout editor software lets you quickly and easily customize your keyboard with icons for all of your favorite Web pages and applications. At $299, it's a bit pricey, but you can get it for $199 until the end of the year.
Best joke: Beefy Rick White, of Realm Systems, showing his Mobile Personal Server, one of several products at the conference designed to make it easier to work on multiple PCs: "I'm not one of those slick, good-looking marketing guys; I'm like two of those guys stuck together."
Best Windows add-on that highlights the superiority of Apple's Tiger OS: Three-way tie between EverDesk, an e-mail, contacts, and file manager; InSors, a conferencing and collaboration solution; and Memio, a document-linking app. While Tiger doesn't come with all of the features offered by these three programs, between Spotlight and iChat AV, you get a lot of 'em.
Company name that most sounds like a type of pasta: Rotani.
Most confounding concept: Tendril Networks cofounder Tim Enwall posits that the physical world is becoming increasingly tied to the computing environment through the use of cheap wireless sensor widgets (a.k.a. microcontrollers).
Most Machiavellian software: SuccessFactors and, to a lesser extent, GreenArray, two corporate performance management solutions that threaten to turn executive management into a giant game of the Sims.