Beta Watch: Bitbop, Trailmeme, Cyncz
Bitbop: TV on Your Phone
If you spend more time on a bus or train than you do in your living room, the idea of watching last night's episode of The Office on your phone may appeal to you. Most carriers offer an extra-price option, usually in conjunction with MobiTV, that streams shows to your handset. But if you don't like going through your carrier, Bitbop is a nice alternative for owners of many Android and BlackBerry phones. For $10 a month (the same amount most carriers charge), you can see episodes of Bones, The Daily Show, or Family Guy--and you can not only stream the shows but also download them to your device. Downloads give you better picture quality, and you don't have to worry about the show freezing if your commute takes you out of a decent coverage area. Unlike MobiTV services, however, Bitbop does not provide live television.
Trailmeme: Guided Web Tours
A free service, Trailmeme lets you put together a string of Web pages to tell a story or lead people where they need to go. Visitors view your online trail in the order you made it (although you can give them options to follow different branches of the trail). You can also add written commentary along the way. Viewers see your notes and follow the navigation through a frame that Trailmeme places at the top of the page. The setup is mostly an elegant way to guide people around the Web. A problem arises on sites (such as NYTimes.com) that don't allow frames around their pages. The only solution Trailmeme suggests is summarizing such sites' information on a blog page of your own. Another option is to download the Trailmeme toolbar for Firefox, which puts the trail navigation in your browser rather than relying on a frame.
Cyncz: All Your Contacts, Everywhere
What do phones, computers, e-mail services, and social networks have in common? They all have a version of your contact list. The maddening thing is that it's not the same version. On your phone, for instance, you have Jim's cell phone number but not his e-mail address, while your PC has his IM handle but not his landline number. As the name ham-handedly tries to indicate, Cyncz is designed to keep all of that in sync. It pulls your contacts from Gmail (and other e-mail services), Outlook, Salesforce, and your phone, and merges the information. (According to a note on the Cyncz site, you'll soon be able to gather information from Facebook and LinkedIn.) Cyncz is unmistakably a beta: I experienced complete failures when I tried to import some contacts, and I found lengthy delays when I clicked on certain functions. But this free service is certainly a beta worth watching.