Innovative Products, Numbers 21 through 25
21. Microsoft Popfly
Innovation: Lets you use Microsoft's Silverlight platform to create Web mashups.
Benefit: Though Popfly is still in early beta, its operation is clearer and its display is more attractive than that of the similar Yahoo Pipes tool.
If you ever played with Legos as a kid, then you should be able to assemble a Web mashup in Microsoft's Popfly. No coding know-how needed--using Popfly is as simple as choosing content sources (such as pictures, video, or news feeds from various online sources) and connecting them to a display model (such as a video player, a dynamic box for text, or a game of whack-a-mole that pops up pictures, for instance). Voil
22. Sprint Airave
Innovation: Delivers cheap, unlimited Internet-based calling at home through any Sprint CDMA handset.
Benefit: You can use your cell phone (and all of the contacts you have stored in it) as a universal phone, with better reception, while at home.
T-Mobile was first to enhance at-home cell calling with the debut of its Hotspot @ Home service, but that offering requires use of one of the company's few dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets. Sprint's device, made by Samsung ($50 with Sprint service), creates a mini cell tower in your home to which your phone can roam. As a result, you can enjoy more convenience and even bigger savings than what you get from VoIP providers such as Vonage.
Innovation: Melds comprehensive search results more coherently than competing universal searches do.
Benefit: Proves that not every site needs to mimic Google, and that a venerable search engine company can do cool new stuff.
Ask.com, a compete redesign of the former Ask Jeeves site, asks very little but gives a lot via its thoughtfully designed interface, including search suggestions as you type. With one query you can retrieve traditional search results as well as news, images, blogs, video, and more. Once you've searched, you can filter the results with useful suggestions to home in on just what you were looking for. The site is visually minimalist, but you can skin it for a new look. If privacy is a concern, AskEraser wipes away private data that search engines typically store.
Innovation: Allows Excel users to share their spreadsheets, online or off.
Benefit: Melds the best of traditional office software and Web-based services.
eXpresso ($80 per seat per year) adds a new twist to Web applications, offering both Web-based sharing in a standard format and tight integration with the most familiar spreadsheet application, Microsoft's Excel. Users can share spreadsheets in real time using eXpresso's service, which also allows you to restrict some users' access to certain segments of a master spreadsheet. In a nutshell, eXpresso is delivering today what Microsoft has promised that its Office suite will do in the future.
25. Kodak EasyShare All-In-One Printers
Innovation: The printers are slightly more expensive, but their ink is priced more like the no-name stuff advertised around the Web.
Benefit: You can print cheaply without worrying that the cartridge will burst all over your printer.
Kodak's midlevel EasyShare printers (from $150) may be a bit pricier at first. But when you combine one with the company's paper-and-ink packs, you can print photos for as little as 10 cents each (according to Kodak)--about half the industry average. The printer's pigment-ink system uses one black-ink cartridge and one five-ink tank; replacing them with non-photo-specific inks directly from Kodak costs just $10 and $15, respectively. We think most people will appreciate the benefit of having one source for affordable, reliable replacement ink cartridges.