A few companies worth noting from the TechCrunch50 conference‘s session on language and platform today:
Publishers should have every reason to try out Alfabetic, a translation service that sucks in English RSS feeds and converts them to other languages. Alfabetic plans to get around the mistranslation problem common to tools like Babelfish by using human proofreading teams. Those teams not only clean up the content and fix mistakes, but also send their changes back to Alfabetic’s statistical system, which learns to translate better over time. The company claims it will reach 80 to 90 percent accuracy eventually.
Alfabetic plans to monetize the translated content and split the revenue with publishers. That’s all profit for the publishers, but for Alfabetic, the economics may not work out so well. The company claims that translating TechCrunch into a set of over 10 languages costs around $1,000 a month. But they may find that getting good ad rates is a difficult proposition, and most blogs – the target group – won’t draw a particularly large audience.
PostBox is yet another email management service designed to dig through your inbox and help you locate documents and images, and manage high message volumes. The company incorporates both social graphing concepts –- you can auto-locate an email’s sender on social networks, for example –- and organization, like grouping messages by topic instead of using folders.
PostBox looks good, but the problem for email startups is that there’s a growing pool of competitors, but very little user awareness. So as companies promising to help out with email proliferate – Zimbra, Xoopit, Xobni, Gist, ClearContext, and others – each will have a harder time reaching the few motivated users who want to download a new email client, or switch to a new service. It doesn’t help that PostBox is a desktop client in a world that’s moving to web services like Gmail.
Devunity is a tool for developers to work collaboratively on code projects online. Team coders might find this tool useful, as it not only allows concurrent editing of files, but includes chat and other communication tools, and shows other users making actions in real-time. The service also supports multiple languages, and APIs from a number of outside services. The company’s presentation wasn’t particularly clear, but one of the conference organizers, Jason Calacanis, seemed to have hit on a four-word summary by calling it “Google Docs for developers”. The product will be free for open source developers, and charge membership for others.
It’s a bit difficult to get excited about Dropbox, unless you really need to share and send files across groups. The company provides a drag-and-drop folder for files like documents, presentations and pictures. Users can modify files as they’re within the folder, and use Dropbox either on- or offline. On the plus side, the service looks fast and efficient. We’ve called Dropbox a solid service in the past, but the company is coming out of private beta testing today, offering up 50 gigabytes of storage for $9.99 a month, and offering Linux and iPhone distributions (it already worked with Windows and Mac).