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Ex-Sun boss McNealy launches social gaming startup

WayIn is a polling game for consumers, but it also wants to be a savvy tool for businesses

By James Niccolai
October 7, 2011 07:21 PM ET

IDG News Service - Scott McNealy has never been shy about sharing his opinions; now he wants everyone else to do the same.

The former Sun boss launched his new company this week, and it's a long way from the enterprise IT business he ran for most of his life. Called WayIn, it's a social gaming service that lets people post a photo online and create their own quick poll, asking friends and other members to "weigh in" with their opinion.

The subject can be anything. "Just point, click, shoot, and ask for unlimited opinions on everything from the cute stranger to your right to the concert you saw last night," WayIn says on its website. Clicking on a response shows how everyone else voted.

The service is accessed through a free app for iPhones, iPads and Android-based devices, and through a Web browser.

McNealy invited journalists to a small launch event at his home in the hills above Silicon Valley this week. He described WayIn as "a little bit of Facebook, a little bit of Twitter, and a big chunk of SurveyMonkey."

It's designed to be fast, fun and addictive, he said. The questions posted so far range from enlightening to goofy. "Which first lady eats the most?" asks one poster. "Is Obama being straight with his answers?" asks another. McNealy's include: "Would you allow Amanda Knox to baby-sit your kids?" (No, he says, along with 65 percent of other respondents).

The intended audience is consumers, but WayIn's real target is big business. It hopes to amass a vast database of consumer sentiment, which it will then sell to businesses along with the analytics tools to parse the data, for marketing and other purposes.

Businesses can also pay to slip their own questions onto the service. For example, if Ford needed to choose a design for the grille of its next Mustang, it could post two photos and ask people which one they liked best. "We can give them an answer in two hours, and it will be statistically significant," McNealy said.

A friend approached him with the idea about a year ago, he said, soon after Oracle took control of Sun. McNealy is the company chairman and the biggest investor in a group that has raised US$6.3 million in funding. He recruited a team of former Sun Java engineers to build the service.

WayIn also has an interactive TV component, the part McNealy seemed most enthused about. "We've solved the interactive TV problem," he declared.

Players can enter forums where people chat and answer questions about live events, such as the Oscars or a big sporting event. This helps broadcasters, according to McNealy, because it will encourage people to watch events live, instead of recording them for the next day and skipping the ads.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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