Product Spotlight: TechCrunch Disrupt New York
BY Justin Torres
TechCrunch Disrupt New York lived up to its hype this year, showcasing exciting new technology that businesses of all stripes can use to boost productivity and operate more efficiently. Here are some highlights from this year’s show:
Microsoft Office 365 plays real-time catch-up: For several years, Microsoft Office 365 has lost the office collaboration spotlight to Google Docs, thanks to features such as live co-authoring of documents, free cloud storage, and universal access. Now Microsoft, which files between 2,000 and 5,000 patents a year, is taking a page out of Google’s playbook.
PowerPoint Web already gives people the ability to perform real-time editing with multiple authors without needing to refresh the page. Microsoft now claims this feature will trickle into its other Office 365 products in the “near future.” And though finding and replacing text is not a hard selling point for the service – and is currently nowhere to be seen – developers have stated that it will soon be added to the online office suite.
Windows Phone and Apple devices can currently access the limited suite of Office features, but Android users have been left in the dark. The Redmond based company is promising cross-compatibility to their web-based client for editing of documents, presentations, and spreadsheets from any browser.
Cloud storage with zero-knowledge encryption: Dropbox, Skydrive, iCloud, Google Drive and countless other backup services attempt to give users peace of mind by encrypting documents within the their server infrastructures. This provides some basic protection over physical theft and brute force attacks, but more often than not there is a flaw in the way these services handle your secure data. Many providers will use a secure connection to upload your files, adding a layer of protection against snooping. However, unless explicitly stated, any file locker that encrypts your data will also store the decryption keys to unlock your data. This will actually leave your documents vulnerable to the prying eyes of rogue employees, social engineering, and pressure from the government.
If security is more important than convenience, move to a cloud backup that uses personal encryption, so that your files are obfuscated locally before being uploaded. Wuala, SpiderOak, and MEGA are a few companies that do not store the keys to unlock your files.
It’s easy to tell if a backup service uses personal encryption: if you can reset your password by clicking on a link then your files are still potentially at risk.
Stream any software to any screen: Cloud video game company OnLive has established a following with gamers by rendering thousands of games from high-end server farms and maintaining save files without players having to be locked into the latest console or even bother with game discs and license keys.
OnLive also delivers the ubiquitous Windows operating system to iOS and Android devices, granting access to desktop versions of Microsoft Office, Flash websites, and various productivity programs.
Give people who have difficulty communicating digitally a new voice: In the ever-expanding ecosystem of social networks and messaging, it’s easy to take for granted how simple it is to interface with our touch-enabled, glass-covered phones and desktops. But people with disabilities, who would benefit greatly from digital messaging, can sometimes find modern inputs essentially unusable.
Tapgram was invented as a manageable alternative to small screen addiction while making accessibility a top priority. Creator Chad Ruble developed the idea after his mother suffered a stroke, forcing her to live with an advanced case of aphasia that severely limits her speech and dexterity.
After creating a prototype with the Xbox Kinect and a hardware unit powered by Arduino, Ruble launched a web based version a few months ago designed to run on handheld and desktop browsers Users can personalize their account, email contacts, and get creative by posting photos and status updates. The company has stated the site will always remain free, and it is already being used by people with autism, victims of physical and mental trauma, and children in special needs classrooms.
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