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Software seeks out casual connections

Jambo Networks uses proliferating wireless connections to hook up people with similar tastes.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--"No kidding, I'm into Brazilian death metal, too!"

Be prepared for more of those kinds of moments if social networking start-up Jambo Networks has its way.

The company was at the Demo conference here Monday demonstrating its service that alerts folks armed with the right gadget when somebody with similar interests is nearby.

Jambo customers start by registering and building a profile via the company's Web site, explained company co-founder Jim Young. Tell Jambo anything you might want other folks to know, such as your alma mater, occupation or musical tastes, and it saves it as part of your secure profile.

Once you've built a profile, Jambo assigns you an ID number and provides free client software that works with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless networking connection.

Jambo contracts with organizations such as universities, trade show organizers and Wi-Fi hot-spot providers to sponsor its service in a given area. Once a person is in a Jambo-outfitted network, the software can run in the background, and it will alert him or her when someone with similar interests is within wireless range. It then lets the user open up an instant messaging window with that person to get a conversation started.

Young expects the initial use of Jambo will focus on environments such as college campuses and trade shows, where ad hoc personal connections are part of the point.

"You go to a trade show because you want to network," Young said. "The challenge is how to find the people you really want to meet."

The software currently works on Microsoft Windows and Mac laptops, and Pocket PC handheld devices. Jambo is working on versions for other portable gadgets, including BlackBerry messengers and Palm- and Symbian-based handhelds.

Once more handheld devices are Jambo-capable, there's a likely affinity for a more personal form of networking. "We'd love to partner with someone like," Young said.