For what the future holds, come to Barcelona

11th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 October 2006, BARCELONA — From Sony to Microsoft, from Skype to Symantec, leaders of the world's biggest technology firms are in Barcelona this week to debate what the future holds.

11 October 2006

BARCELONA — From Sony to Microsoft, from Skype to Symantec, leaders of the world's biggest technology firms are in Barcelona this week to debate what the future holds.

They are there for the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition (Etre), an annual event which also brings together start-up companies and the financiers who might fund them, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

It is a good place to work out what's hot and what's not in the technology world - so here is what is causing a buzz in Barcelona.

Last year, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp bought MySpace , now Google has snapped up YouTube - and everyone else wants to put money into sites where the content comes from the users.

Nobody is quite clear just how you turn wacky video clips or teenage scribblings into a viable business - but they are betting that advertisers will want to sell to the huge audiences these sites attract.

One company at the Barcelona event plans to cash in by taking social networking onto mobile phones.

Funkysexycool (it hails from Australia where understatement is a lost art) has signed up 100,000 mobile users to a network which allows them to look at photos of other subscribers and rate them as funky, sexy or cool.

There are prizes for those who get the most votes.

Unlike many social networking businesses funkysexycool does not have to depend on advertising revenue - its users pay about EUR 5 a month to upload photos from their phones onto the network.

The company is now moving into the United States, where it will find out whether a bigger audience finds its service funky - or just a little uncool.

Menawhile, just as some thought net telephony, or Voice Over IP (Voip) to use its technical name - was a geeky fad which was fading fast, it is hot again.

Last year Skype, which made Voip a mass-market phenomenon, was bought by eBay before it had really proved that you could make money from offering free internet phone calls.

Now the whole idea is getting a new lease of life through the drive to offer Voip calls from mobile phones.

One firm pushing its technology in Barcelona is Jajah, which claims to slash the cost of making calls from abroad.

Users need a handset that uses Symbian software, and once they sign up calls head through the local GSM network onto the web, so only local call charges apply.

Also in Barcelona, British wireless company The Cloud announced it was teaming up with Skype to offer mobile calls from wi-fi hotspots across Europe - though for this service you will need a wi-fi enabled handset.

The biggest buzz was around a Spanish company with ambitions to make the whole world a wi-fi hotspot.

Fon believes it can do this by recruiting millions of people who are willing to share their wi-fi connection.

"Foneros", as its members are called, pay EUR 5 to receive a simple router, and once they've hooked it up to their own system, they become part of a global network whose members can look on a map to find a free wi-fi connection.

Fon's founder Martin Varsavsky said it was all about "nice people who share wi-fi amongst nice people".

Sounds great - but are there really enough nice people to make a world of free wi-fi work?

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Subject: Spanish news

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