Mobile apps take the stage at spring Demo

Spotlight shines on mobile apps that make it easier to text, monitor kids' smartphones

Driving home the notion that emerging technology is largely about mobility, several companies helped to open the spring Demo conference today with a slew of mobile applications that can help users monitor their kids, text more easily and sign documents on the fly.

The conference, which runs today and tomorrow in Palm Springs, Calif., is designed to enable companies to show off their latest gadgets and software. The show opened with Joshua Kerr, co-founder of ABJK NewCo Inc., taking a baseball bat to a fax machine to make his point that the days of standing around an office waiting to sign a document and fax it are over.

Kerr was showing Zosh, his company's mobile app that is designed to enable users to sign and send documents from their iPhones or iPads. Zosh is available today on iTunes.

"The fax machine and scanner are like a ball and chain that tie me to the office," Kerr told the conference audience. "I need to be out of the office, not in the office."

For the Android phone, a company called ThickButtons showed an application designed to make typing on a touch screen faster and easier.

The application predicts what buttons aren't as likely to be used and makes them smaller, while at the same time making the other buttons larger. The app is aimed at thick-fingered typists who struggle with the small touch screens.

"Everyone who has tried typing on a smartphone knows how frustrating that can be," said Dimitri Lisitski, CEO and founder of ThickButtons. "[It] shrinks the buttons you don't need anymore and enlarges the buttons you do need."

Another application being demonstrated today was the Mobile Community Platform from Zerista Inc., a mobile social software provider. The software is designed to enable people to build their own Web-based apps that are customized for their specific groups.

"Existing social media platforms and communities are trying to retrofit their desktop applications for mobile use," said Charlie Savage, CEO of Zerista. "But Zerista is the first community platform designed from the ground up for the mobile Web."

The new platform is expected to go into beta this summer.

For parents who are trying to monitor what their children are doing on their smartphones, Voxofon LLC showed a mobile application called Ambit. The application is designed to enable parents to set up and monitor their kids' phone contacts and applications. If the child dials an unknown number, the call won't go through. If the child tries to download an unapproved application, it won't install and the parents will be alerted.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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