TechCrunch50 Highlights Mobile, Text Input Tools

Ventures in mobile computing and platform tools highlighted the TechCrunch50 2008 conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, with companies airing products ranging from a cross-platform environment for mobile systems to a next-generation text input technology.

TechCrunch50 has featured startups presenting their wares to the audience and panels of experts drawn from the entrepreneurial and investor realms. Among the panelists Tuesday was Mark Cuban, a technology entrepreneur perhaps best known as the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and a former contestant on the "Dancing with the Stars" TV show.

Projects detailed included Mytopia, which provides a cross-platform environment for Web and mobile systems. While the demonstration of Mytopia featured an online poker game functioning across multiple devices and a PC desktop, it also can be leveraged for all rich media applications, said Guy Ben-Atzi, CEO of Mytopia.

Using the company's RUGS (Real Time Universal Gaming System) framework, developers can code applications one time and automatically compile native builds for key Smartphone and mobile operating systems, including Blackberry, Apple iPhone, and PalmOS.

"RUGS is a rich content authoring environment and it starts with a developer who uses a customized Eclipse-based IDE. RUGS is going to ensure that content is going to be created in what we call a RUGS-compliant fashion," for cross-platform translation, Ben-Atzi said.

Swype presented its text input technology at the conference. Using either a stylus or a finger, users can quickly input words onto a screen. It is designed to work across devices such as phones, tablets, game consoles, and virtual screens.

"It's very forgiving and flexible. You don't need to be exact," said Swype CEO Mike McSherry.

"Swype is the text input [technology] for the 21st century," McSherry said. Users can write 50 words per minute and multiple languages are supported, he said. He asked screen designers and builders to talk to the company if they thought the technology would be applicable.

Dropbox showed its technology for storing and sharing files in the cloud. Online sync, sharing, and backup are combined into a single interface. Files in the Dropbox folder are synchronized between computers and securely backed up online. Folders can be shared with others. The company announced Linux backing for the product Tuesday.

Devunity touted its cloud-based collaborative coding platform for developers, uniting programmers from around the world. "With just a few clicks, they can start developing with you," said Alon Carmel, CEO at Devunity.

"You don't have to mess with versioning. You can see what everybody's doing in real time," Carmel said.

Other technologies covered on Tuesday were in the collaborative and finance and statistics spaces. Sometimes, panelists offered sharp rebukes, such as Cuban's assessment of ImindI, which proposed a service to help like-minded thinkers connect on the Web. The service features a thought engine and artificial intelligence. The monetization plan involves rich contextual advertising.

"Maybe I'm missing something, but that just sounded like the biggest bunch of b******* I've ever heard in my life," Cuban said.

"I don't get what the return is for making the investment in time" to use the application, Cuban said. IMindi CEO Adam Lindemann defended the project as seeking to connect information to thoughts.

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