Sunday, October 30, 2005

Expert: Speech recognition software is ready

Since Captain Kirk first addressed the ship's computer, we've been waiting for a solid application to handle speech recognition. While there have been some tools available to consumers for a few years now, most of them are fairly simple. So is the technology used by Microsoft for its XP speech recognition offering. At least that's what one executive told us at NAR this weekend.

"If those tools are about a 4 on the scale, our new tool is a 41," said Larry Spencer, vice president of business development for Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions. Fidelity is integrating the new technology into a number of its products, including Transaction Point, Management Center and its MLS solutions.

Spencer said real estate agents would soon be interacting directly with Fidelity's computers to get home listing information they need to do their jobs. But it won't be like the Interactive Voice Response technology we've seen in the past. Imagine the MLS system getting a new listing in a neighborhood and calling up a real estate agent to give her the news.

"It will be like their own personal concierge," Spencer said.

Fidelity will roll out the technology across all of its offerings in the future.

Meetings: NAR a hit in San Francisco

We're podcasting in San Francisco this weekend at the National Association of Realtor's annual convention. A great crowd and two exhibit halls filled with vendors. We're here on behalf of a client, offering free podcasts as a premium to their partners and clients. It's a great application of Internet audio.

Realtors have not been generally viewed as a tech savvy lot, and yet anyone attending this show might think otherwise. Many of the vendors on the floor are offering real estate technology and all of the mortgage lenders we've seen have been making technology a key element of their offerings. The Realtors on the floor seem to be getting it. They're asking intelligent questions and many are taking notes.

One thing is for certain: the buzz here is that the business of real estate is changing. While the market has been great over the past few years, folks here are telling us that it will get tougher in the future. Many attendees are looking for tools that will help them do a better job of selling and managing the customer relationship. As one vendor told us this morning, "They're trying to learn how to be nice to people."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Expert: E-Mortgage coming next year

According to at least one expert I spoke with at the MBA's annual convention, the elusive e-mortgage will finally make itself a permanent fixture in the business next year.

Terry King, Group Chairman for MRG Document Technologies, told us during a podcast from the exhibit hall floor that a number of factors would come together to finally make paperless lending feasible for the majority of lenders next year. To hear more, check out his podcast.

You'll find a list of podcasts in the audio/video section of our online pressroom. We recorded more than 40 during the MBA's convention. Many are still in the studio, but they'll all be on the site soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Texell: A successful first show

The MBA's annual convention in Orlando is winding down. The exhibit hall floor is closed and the booths are being carted away. We're sitting in our hotel room at the Disney Dolphin catching our breath. What a show!

Over the course of the last two days, we talked to over 40 top executives about their businesses, their new offerings and the industry in general. We recorded them all and are now producing them into podcasts that will shortly hit our site. Some are there now.

For us, this show was an unqualified success. While some attendees complained that the bad weather kept too many people away, Texell found that the people we needed to speak with most made the show despite the hurricane. Most exciting for us was the fact that so many executives were willing to sit down with us and record a podcast. They clearly understood the power of audio and, to a person, did a great job explaining what they offered to the industry. It was a great way to introduce our own services to the industry.

Watch the site as we continue to add content from the show.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dynatek: Launches MORvision Titanium

In a custom-built trade show booth that looked more like a futuristic theater, Dynatek launched it's new MORvision version today. MORvision Titanium was presented to booth visitors on the hour through a presentation by Dynatek CEO Jack Luhtanen and a big screen DVD movie.

I got a glimpse of the new offering earlier this summer at the Dynatek users conference in Livonia, Mich. This was a more expanded view with live demos running in different parts of the booth.

Companies looking to take advantage of SOA and Web services will want to check out this new software. While it can be argued that Dynatek has been utilizing these new architectures for some time, Titanium expands on that and delivers easy-to-use functionality in a compelling package. It's worth a look.

Meetings: Great first day at MBA

The first full day on the exhibit hall floor at the Mortgage Bankers Association's 92nd Annual Convention was great. The Texell booth was filled with some of the best and brightest executives from around the industry. We recorded hours of podcasts at the show, which are now being edited by our production team. Some are already up on the Texell site.

We're going to be in the sound booth again tomorrow, bringing you news from the floor. Watch our website for more information.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Experts: MT award winners announced

It was quite a party, complete with Hawaiian fire jugglers and hula girls (and even a man blowing a conch shell). But the climax of the evening was the awarding of the seven Mortgage Technology magazine awards. We were there podcasting live (that show is now up on the Mortgage Technology website).

Seven great companies and executives won awards, including Advectis, No Red Tape Mortgage, Dynatek, Mortgagebot, Wellfound/Decade, Prime Alliance and Ruth Thompson of Desert Documents. Ms. Thompson had the distinction of being the first woman ever to win the Steve Frasier award for mortgage technology evangelism and she accepted it gracefully. Years of hard work, pushing new technologies out to an industry that adopts slowly, finally paid off and we're glad to see her take home that award.

You can hear comments from all of the winners on our podcast.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Idea: Podcast at MBA

We only have a few days left to schedule a free podcast at the upcoming MBA show in Orlando. If you're interested in trying this out, send us a note and we'll work you into the schedule.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Idea: Dip your toes in video

You probably saw the big announcement that Apple will add video to its upcoming iPod. That news has a lot of people excited. Today, the company announced it has signed a deal with ABC television that will give iPod users episodes of "Desperate Housewives" for $1.99 each.

Inman News was blogging about it yesterday, asking Realtors what their video was going to be about. One thing is for certain, Brad Inman and his team are expert at spotting trends in real estate, but I'm not sure how hot this one will be yet. And I'll tell you why.

I've been a closet Mac lover since 1982 when I helped start one of the first Desktop Publishing businesses in the country. The new tools Apple had then made available had us all convinced that everyone and his brother would soon be publishing their own magazines. The world would be awash in sharp new publications. That didn't happen.

In truth, we have a lot more print publications on the market today than we did prior to the introduction of that technology, but they're still all subject to the same requirements of every other business: either they add value or they die. The same thing happened with digital audio. We got a lot more Hip-Hop (which appeals to a market with some unique characteristics), but indie labels today struggle as much as they ever did, even with the Internet.

The same thing will happen with video. A lot of folks will get excited about video being available through a new mobile medium, especially folks that produce video for a living, like Inman and Texell (my own company). But it won't mean every company in the business will go out and start shooting their own programs. There will still be the costs of production to consider, the hard work of producing something that truly adds value and the uncertainty of the actual return on investment.

I expect it will continue to be a tool used primarily by top companies with something to say and the marketing savvy to do it with the most powerful communication tool available outside of a face-to-face meeting. These are the firms that will start producing video for the iPod now, leveraging it in the same powerful ways they are already utilizing blogs and podcasts.

That being said, we are excited about this news. Not because we know that "Desperate Housewives" will be followed closely by "Naked Housewives Wild On" but because now customers will have even more control over how they receive marketing information. Not only can they now choose to learn about that new technology platform through a video presentation, but they can also choose to watch it on the plane, using a device that fits in their pocket. That's huge.

That's the way people will do business in the very near future. Don't expect to see a video from every Realtor anytime soon, but plan on getting access to some great new video content easier than ever before.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Portellus: Scores major client

Portellus, Irvine, Calif., announced recently that it had signed The Pinnacle Companies as a new client. The tech firm will be providing loan origination software, automated underwriting, business rules management and a broker portal for the company.

The platform will serve more than 100 branches, 7 fulfillment centers and over 1,250 users. That's a pretty big deal, but perhaps not as big as the fact that the client will be using so much of the firm's software.

Jeff Vratanina, vice chairman and director of The Pinnacle Companies, gave Portellus a glowing endorsement in the press release, but actions speak louder than words.

For a long time now, lenders have been saying that they want a single platform to handle all of the work necessary to write loans from any channel. However, for a number of good reasons, most lenders won't trust their entire operation to a single vendor. SOA has made it easier for lenders to take that step. The promise of best-of-breed components, regardless of the vendor that creates them, takes away some of the risk.

In this case, Portellus is getting all of the business. If it works out for the lender, it could be a big deal for the vendor.

What's not in the release: Joe Bowerbank, Director of Marketing for Portellus tells us that his company is keeping track of how the deal goes in order to create a detailed case study. If done well, that document could make for some very good reading, especially for firms that are intent on putting their operation on one enterprise-wide lending solution.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Idea: Get your podcasts on Yahoo

More evidence that people are at least sensing the power of podcasting is found in the recently launched Yahoo! Podcasts Beta. The site appears to be another podcast search engine, but with millions of users, Yahoo! has the power to introduce the tool to a much larger audience.

To avoid turning off new listeners by exposing them to one of the thousands of really bad podcasts, the site features podcasts from Ebert & Roeper, TWiT (This Week in Tech), and National Public Radio.

Perhaps most interesting is a detailed explanation of how to produce your own podcast and, more importantly, what to do with it once you have it.

Google did something similar for blogging when it launched its blog search engine over a month ago. It owns Blogger, a popular blogging platform. Google has yet to provide a search engine specific to podcasting.

I am impressed with the way Yahoo! is handling this. Like Blogs and Video Blogs, the vast majority of the content available today is pretty awful (which is fine, as most of these people are youngsters just learning a craft that will be very important in the future). Knowing this, Yahoo! even provides a list of suggested topics that new podcasters can use for their own programming. This might help some of these new artists avoid the cardinal sin common to all of these new media tools: being boring. I'm looking forward to finding some good new content through this tool.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Y-Waite: New bundled services platform

Dwayne Waite of Y-Waite Solutions has announced his firm's Magellan bundled services system. Waite is both the firm's president and chief technology officer, which I find very interesting. Typically, the developer of a new technology builds an organization to market and sell the new offering. In this case, Waite has been working behind the scenes in the industry for some time.

According to the firm's website, Magellan is a workflow-based Vendor Management System that automates order processing, monitors service levels, and enables improved vendor performance to ensure client satisfaction.

What's not in the release: I met Waite at last year's TAVMA (Title & Appraisal Vendor Management Association) Bundled Services Conference. At the time, he was talking about some work he had done with a major industry VMC (see below). While the company may be a new name to some, I expect Waite will be a serious contender. I'll be back at another TAVMA show next month and hope to talk to him. I'll let you know if I catch him.

In the meantime, you can find out more about his company from October Research. The firm's Real Estate Technology Insight newsletter is currently running a six-part case study on Waite's company and the implementation and upgrade of technology it performed for that VMC I alluded to above.

Texell: Company is live

Our announcement hit today and the good folks at Source Media were kind enough to include me in their Daily Briefing. They mentioned that I was a former managing editor at the company, but did not point out that much of what I know about meeting tough deadlines, the complexities of the mortgage lending industry and getting the story right (not to mention the rigors of October) I learned from Mark Fogarty and the other excellent journalists there. They are a class act and I am proud that they mentioned I was once among their number.

I will actually be getting to work with some of them again later this month when my new company provides the on-site podcasting for the annual Mortgage Technology magazine awards in Orlando. I am looking forward to it and hope to see many of you there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

William Mills Agency: Starting a conversation

Those of you in the market for a new loan origination system (LOS) -- which, according to editor and pundit Scott Kersnar is most of you at any given time -- should take note of the roundtable conversation transcribed and posted to the MBA TechLink website. A number of industry LOS notables, including John Walsh and Keven Smith are quoted.

The William Mills Agency, along with industry trade journalist and former Freddie alum Jeff Noe, are responsible for the content. There are actually three parts to the transcript, which MBA Techlink is posting over the same number of weeks.

What's not in the release: The transcript is very interesting, but what really intrigues me about this is that it started out as a recorded event. At one point, the actual voices of the these experienced executives were captured, their thoughts crystallized in time.

Executives have always spoken their minds for the record in full knowledge that they were being recorded. But most of them count on journalists to "clean it up" a bit afterward as they make it ready for publication. In this case, they call it "edited for clarity."

Expect to see more audio-based communication tools being used by executives in the future. But as we continue to advance, expect to get access to the actual recordings. This will be better for the companies as they will be free to send unedited messages, and better for buyers who know they are getting the whole story.