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May 6, 2008 12:00 AM

Ex-Amazon VP launching "Web for seniors"

Posted by Brier Dudley

A Kirkland startup called BigScreenLive is formally launching a complete Web experience aimed at older adults and their families, especially people who have been too intimidated to go online or really dislike using the Web.

BSL2.jpg

The subscription service runs on Windows PCs and basically creates a new desktop, with a simplified interface and big buttons to do things like share family photos, handle e-mail or search the Web. For topics such as news and health, there are tabs that call up pages that are automatically filled with news feeds or links.

Cayce Roy, former vice president of Amazon.com's fulfillment services, found out about the company through angel investing circles and decided to become its chief executive last summer. He's now leading a team of 12 to 20 people and raising money to take the company national.

Roy's drawing on contacts developed at Amazon to pursue distribution channels through national retailers such as Target. He's also working on partnership deals with publishers.

Here's a screenshot of the "daily digest" section, with news and other Web info, including what looks like a potential magazine sponsorship location:

BSL1.jpg


Further down the road, the company might partner with computer makers to preload the software or even develop its own Linux-based thin client computing device.

Subscriptions cost $9.95 a month. The company will also make money through commissions from Amazon and search engines built into the site and from advertising.

The software installs via download. It's also being distributed on a USB memory stick that loads the system when it's plugged into a PC. The memory stick also stores settings, so users can share a PC.

BigScreenLive had a "soft launch" in February and has been testing its service in the Seattle area, offering trials at assisted living facilities, for instance.

It's a little like the controlled Web experience that AOL pioneered. It also reminds me of Cozi, the Seattle startup that builds a console/start page aimed at busy moms.

They're all serving a sort of editing function, assembling a set of key applications and resources and presenting them in a format that's easy and useful enough to become a daily destination.

When I made the AOL comparison, Roy said the idea was to create a service that enables older people to use the Internet as opposed to limiting what they can do online.

"We're not trying to create a walled garden," he said. "We're trying to create an experience so you can do things.''

If this is still too confusing, there's another company in the Seattle area that still hand-delivers a carefully edited, accessible package of news and information to your doorstep every morning.


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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.