Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Posts Tagged ‘iPHONE’

RIM faces tough challenge to impress at annual symposium

Posted by sweens on April 29, 2010

The heat is on BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion as the company heads into its annual industry showcase of new products and services in what will perhaps be the most competitive year yet for smartphones.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company opens a three-day annual showcase on Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., and it’s expected to update some devices, add new products and partnerships, and perhaps offer a few surprises.

There are rumours that RIM will announce an updated web browser, designed to compete with Apple’s popular iPhone, and perhaps even a new operating system.

“In the evolution of the company, this is going to be a very important year, for sure,” said Neeraj Monga, an analyst for Veritas Investment Research Corp.

“People are either going to give credit to the company that it can out-compete and out-innovate Apple, or they’re going to give up and say ‘BlackBerry had a great run, but it’s another one of those technology businesses that has matured and just cannot keep up with its innovative competitors.’”

Whether this year is literally such a sink-or-swim scenario for RIM is debatable, but it’s hard to deny the company is facing some of its fiercest competition yet.

In the past year, both the iPhone and Google’s Android smartphones have gained notable share in North America’s smartphone market, an area that was once clearly dominated by RIM’s BlackBerry products.

While RIM was able to add on its solid base within the business and government communities by adding consumer-friendly features to various BlackBerry models, RIM has been under plenty of scrutiny.

Critics say RIM has been slow to develop a new web browser for its devices that can compete with some of the more user-friendly designs on the market.

However, the highly competitive market is more complex than simply a new browser, as smartphone pioneer Palm learned last year when it unveiled a new browser design to critical raves.

Palm’s stock has fallen to multi-year lows, and recent reports have suggested that Palm has hired Goldman Sachs to help shop the company to potential buyers for about US$1.1 billion.

Despite the turbulence in smartphones, which usually include keys for text entry as well as phone calls, BlackBerrys remain the dominant smartphone in North America, and among the biggest sellers globally.

Broadpoint AmTech analyst Mark McKechnie said there are two ways to digest the company’s position in the market.

“They’re certainly showing tremendous growth outside of the U.S. as they bring smartphones to lower price points,” he said from Orlando, where he planned to attend the symposium.

“We need to see them bring the fight back here to the U.S. and regain their positioning at the high-end (or higher-priced devices).”

While most of RIM’s plans will not be unveiled until the conference gets underway, the company offered up its usual tease of product announcements ahead of the launch.

The highlights included a 3G version of its Pearl device and a BlackBerry Bold that works on CDMA network carriers.

Most of the most-anticipated announcements are expected when co-CEO Mike Lazaridis delivers a keynote address during the conference. The company’s stock price will likely show whether investors are impressed.

On Monday morning, RIM’s stock was down 80 cents to $69.78 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, off a 52-week high of 95 and low of $58.64.

In an interview ahead of the conference, co-CEO Jim Balsillie defended the company’s position on the market.

“Wind the clock back and I can give you 10 other companies that were put forward that were just overwhelmingly formidable for us to even consider competing against,” Balsillie said.

“There’s always somebody that somebody’s going to put out.”

By David Friend, The Canadian Press

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Posted by sweens on February 22, 2010


No one would ever accuse Benbria Corp. of being in the disaster business. But CEO Andrea Baptiste does say there’s a distinct market opportunity both now and on the horizon in public safety and security, of which the company’s product has more than a few applications.

“A big part of that (opportunity) is ‘How do you notify the right people at the right time, with the right information?’” she says.

Put simply, Benbria’s intelligent notification offering provides a two-way mass communications system on multiple platforms including PC, IP paging to overhead speakers, mobile technology and voice messaging. Recipients and confirmation feedback are tracked with live updating reports, allowing users to view who’s received what message and where they are.

A well-publicized deal with Carleton University last year marked the company’s arrival onto the Ottawa scene, but its success hasn’t stopped since then. It doubled its workforce to 16 since November, will launch a U.K. office within months, has recorded several consecutive quarters of revenue growth and, says Ms. Baptiste, now has “more customers than employees” – boasting around 20 clients in the U.S., India and Australia, among others.

The company also seems to have picked up particular traction in the education and enterprise markets, though it is facing competition from local firm Amika Mobile and U.S. companies Inova Solutions and ERMS Corp.

Serial tech powerhouse Terry Matthews chairs the company’s board, and the savvy veteran’s fingerprints are all over the firm, which was started by three University of Waterloo students. A product of the Wesley Clover group of companies, the latter’s vice-president, Simon Gwatkin, is also Benbria’s vice-president of marketing. Benbria is a Mitel strategic partner, as well.

But don’t think the company’s technology is meant only for emergencies. Far from it, says Ms. Baptiste. “Every company or enterprise we talk to has a use for this, either where it will improve their efficiency or business operations,” she says. “(Customers) are using this technology for compliance obligations. Think about the retail sector – they’ve got a lot of information they’ve got to send out to their stores, and it’s important that they have two-way communication. It’s also great for situations like product recalls.”

And while Ms. Baptiste says the company hasn’t given any auto manufacturers a call just yet – though it may only be a matter of time – it’s also noteworthy the company also hasn’t yet attacked government verticals, which presumably could use the technology to communicate with citizens during times of crisis.

Whatever its target market, Benbria certainly doesn’t seem strapped for cash. It closed an oversubscribed angel round last year and will launch a second round at an increased valuation in the first half of 2010, Ms. Baptiste says.

“And we’re doing that to grow our channels to market, and to grow our service model as a software-as-a-service business.”

While Ms. Baptiste adds the company is “considering” its future in terms of potential buyouts or M&A activity, she says its main concern lies in “growing the company with a strong value proposition.

“Our focus right now is on the heavy acceleration of our business, and building shareholder value.”

Year founded: 2007
Local head count: 16
Funding to date: One angel round, undisclosed
Product: Cross-media unified notification system


DoGood Headquarters

Faisal Sethi wants web surfers to generate funds for good causes without spending a dime.

That’s the concept behind DoGood Headquarters, a company that’s still measuring its existence in weeks but is racking up accolades in the local startup community and generating buzz amongst bloggers and the mainstream media.

Its free DoGooder browser plugin hides banner advertisements on websites and shows ads promoting environmental initiatives, philanthropic “calls for action” and health and wellness ideas.

DoGood donates half its profits to charitable causes such as the David Suzuki Foundation and The Humane Society. With the company’s revenue based on the number of “impressions,” or ad loads, web users are raising funds as they surf.

“It allows anyone to do good on a daily basis without affecting their lifestyle or bank account,” says Mr. Sethi, who co-founded the company with his wife, Meika Campeau.

Along with pioneering new forms of corporate social responsibility, DoGood is forging new online advertising models by focusing on the end user, rather than the destination site.

Traditional online advertisers post unsolicited ads and hope web users will surf and see their message. DoGooder, by contrast, allows advertisers to bring their products and messages directly to interested end users, without the privacy concerns of browser tracking.

“We’re seeing much higher engagement rates because people are actually opting-in to see things they enjoy,” says Mr. Sethi, noting his click-through rates are typically two to five times higher than traditional banner ad campaigns.

Fresh from winning three OCRI/Exploriem Bootstrap Awards earlier this month – one a bronze for best new business with revenues of $100,000 or less – DoGood has been nominated for a SXSW technical achievement award. The winner will be announced at the multiday music, film and technology festival in Austin, Texas, next month.

Mr. Sethi says DoGood has not run into conflicts with mainstream publishers whose ads are suddenly hidden from view. He says his product is not an ad blocker because the original advertisement is technically still shown and users have the option of seeing it. This means the original publisher is still collecting impressions – and revenue.

But as Mr. Sethi sees it, he’s not taking anything away from traditional advertisers.

“A regular ad is completely irrelevant to a do-gooder end user. Their eyeballs are completely invaluable,” he says.“They wouldn’t be clicking on it or, likely, even noticing it.” 

Year founded: 2009
Local head count: Fluctuates between 5 and 9
Funding to date: None.
Product: Browser plugin that replaces ads with environmental and philanthropic messages



It may sound like something out of a science-fiction movie, but eSight chairman Dan Mathers says his company’s product is giving hope to people with inoperable eye conditions.

“We give ‘super vision’ to people who otherwise have great difficulty seeing … we augment reality so we can optimize every little last bit of functioning sight they have,” says Mr. Mathers about eSight’s technology, a lightweight, sunglasses-like device with a built-in video camera and display screens instead of lenses.

The product – currently undergoing patient trials and expected to make its commercial debut in fall 2010 – incorporates a personal processor that transmits the full-motion video captured with the camera to the display screens in real time.

It also has features such as gaze-tracking technology and the ability to alter the colour map of whatever a user is looking at if, for instance, they can’t see in blues and oranges but have fewer problems with purples and greens.

Mr. Mathers says the device is receiving a ton of support from the medical community as well as people suffering from diseases such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, neither or which can be treated by surgery or drugs.

“We get regular inquiries about the product, people volunteering for patient testing, and lots who want to purchase the product when it’s available,” he says.

“We want this to be a device that people can wear all the time to help with the activities of daily living, so they can go out on the back porch and see a flower blooming for the first time, or see their grandchildren’s faces, or watch TV on them.”

Part of the appeal of eSight’s offering is there isn’t really anything like it on the market – the closest thing you can find is a heavy head-worn magnifier that has a large optical zoom camera, but none of eSight’s competitors have an integrated computing element, says Mr. Mathers.

As such, eSight has already started building ties with low-vision clinics throughout North America, with Mr. Mathers noting that the company is set to capitalize on the market for low-vision assistive devices, that’s worth $300 million today.

“There are 22 million people in North America who have eye issues that surgery and drugs can’t correct,” he adds. “We’re building a very strong business, doing something that’s a very, very good cause, and improving the quality of life for these people.”

Year founded: 2007
Local head count: 7
Funding received to date: $3.5 million
Product: Wearable low-vision device



EventBots has come a long way from its first prototype, an “incredibly heavy” device made of wood that husband-and-wife pair Denis Tsui and Amy Yee put together for a friend’s wedding.

Ms. Yee recalls that “Eureka!” moment when she and Mr. Tsui – an industrial designer by trade – had been discussing it with their friend, who had wanted a photo booth at her Ottawa wedding but found it too expensive to bring from Toronto.

“Denis said, ‘I can build that!’ and I said, ‘That’s nice, honey,’ because he’s always saying he can build things,” laughs Ms. Yee, who is herself a trained engineer.

“But a few months later, we found ourselves actually building it and it was coming along really well. I thought it was something that we could turn into a viable business.”

Today, the completely bootstrapped company has three “Speakers’ Corner”-style units capable of instantly printing out photos and capturing high-definition video – along with being able to fit easily into the couple’s Mini Cooper.

Ms. Yee says the bot has several unique features: It’s open-concept, which allows more people to use it simultaneously, and the VideoBot is one of the few portable video machines available on the market.

A key differentiator, however, is the fact that rental also includes the services of a person who will help engage potential users “because very rarely do people just come up to the bot and start talking,” says Ms. Yee.

While EventBots continues to be popular at weddings, it’s starting to attract corporate customers such as Hydro Ottawa and the National Arts Centre, some of whom have indicated they would like to become repeat customers.

The firm has even received inquiries from as far afield as California – from an American film director getting married in Mexico, no less – and the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, EventBots has no way at the moment of easily flying or shipping out its units beyond simply driving them to their location, something which Ms. Yee says the company is working on resolving.

Still, she adds the business is currently profitable and revenues rose 400 per cent in its first year. EventBots is currently on the hunt for financing to build its next model, which it expects to debut later this year. The firm is also looking into expansion options, with franchising being a serious possibility, along with partnerships with event planners.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and the resulting demand for audience personalization and engagement, Ms. Yee says she foresees growth potential. “At least 50 per cent of the really valuable content at an event will be with the audience … and it’s getting it in the moment that’s really important. Not everyone’s going to (submit content online afterwards), they’re going to do it in the moment when they’re connected and really tied together by why they’re there.”

Year founded: 2008
Local head count: 4
Funding received to date: None
Product: Portable ‘Speakers’ Corner’-type photo and video machines



The growing prevalence of online shopping – particularly in the mobile space, where U.S. firm ABI Research predicts a $119-billion market by 2015 – has been well-documented.

And that’s why Gazaro Inc. is well-positioned to ride a growth curve into the foreseeable future, says founder and CEO Sam Zaid. Competition in the space is fierce but he says the company’s analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities, when combined with the power of the almighty splurge in all its guises, provides a powerful value proposition for customers.

The technology trolls online stores and sales flyers looking for applicable sales based on a user’s interests and locale. So if you’re, say, a tropical fish lover in Ottawa, your phone will tell you the minute that bunch of Malawi cichlids you’ve had your eye on goes on sale.

Gazaro offers both a website users can browse and a “Gazaro Deals” iPhone application, available since mid-December.  “In terms of the mobile space, it’s wide-open right now,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of applications that help shoppers when they’re in the store.

“And on the web side of things, there hasn’t been a ton of innovation there in the past couple of years, so with our AI background we think we can bring some new capabilities around tracking and prediction that should differentiate us quite well.”

The company’s key differentiator, according to Mr. Zaid? Information synthesis, or “distilling all the data we collect into simple indicators” to help customers find what they’re looking for.

Incubated and seed funded by local firm Apption – of which Mr. Zaid is the chief technology officer – Gazaro, which primarily has gone after the U.S. market, also boasts a strategic partnership with Viigo, another software application company. “Channels like that help us get the word out,” he says.

Gazaro generates revenue in three main streams – on a cost-per-click basis when users visit the site or use the app, through commissions on purchases and on the sale of the application itself.

And while Mr. Zaid won’t discuss specific financials of the company, he says growth “over the past couple of quarters has been strong,”

“Our strategy revolves more and more around building novel features and solutions that don’t exist yet – new things you can do with the data to help consumers save money.”

But the best part about Gazaro is that it’s a company willing to take risks, even at technology trade shows – it was handed a TechCrunch 50 Disqualification Award for using “booth babes” to showcase its product in 2008, which goes to the company “with the most unethical, despicable, and utterly inhumane yet overly effective marketing tactic” to entice visitors to its booth.

 Year founded: 2008
Local head count: 7
Funding to date: $1 million
Product: Personalized online sales flyers

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LOOK AHEAD 2010: Technology in the year 2010

Posted by sweens on January 14, 2010

Published on January 11th, 2010
Jim Donnelly

OBJ asks six industry leaders what’s in store for the future

What are high technology’s prospects in 2010? We recently sat down with a clutch of high-powered paragons of the scene to find out what’s in store for Ottawa, for their respective markets, and for their companies. Here’s what they had to say:

DEBBIE WEINSTEIN, partner at Labarge Weinstein

We had a very busy 2009 for mergers and acquisitions and some public company financing, and this will continue in 2010. There are some very good companies in Ottawa that have quietly grown into industry-leading enterprises. We’ll see some IPOs and M&As from those entities. Venture capital activity will be sporadic at best in Ottawa; we’ll see it peppered over traditional IT as well as clean tech and life sciences – these latter two areas are due for a breakthrough, and there are some companies in these sectors that are possibilities to really shine in 2010. We will also see Ottawa grow in the digital and multimedia sectors.

With the permanent lack of new private venture capital, startups will be hard-pressed to find appropriate capital, outside of a few. The Ontario government has a fund which may help on some matching, but the lead must come from private sources – angel or VC funds. That being said, the city will continue to see lots of small, fledgling startups employing fewer than 10 people with no outside money. But this will not propel the next big one, which is what this city needs.

The newer public companies have done well in 2009 and this will bode well for a couple of others that we may see go public in 2010, if the public market stays healthy. With the selloff of Nortel practically complete, while all acquirers downsized as part of the integration post-closing, I’m confident we’ll see growth in employment from those businesses. Our workforce is exceedingly strong and competitive, as demonstrated by the increasing presence of foreign-run operations in Ottawa. Canadian companies like RIM and Open Text continue to see employment growth in the capital.

So, I believe Ottawa is well-insulated for employment growth but not necessarily stemming from well-funded, VC-backed companies.

KEVIN FORD, CEO of Parliant Corp.

In the iPhone application market, we’re pretty much saturated with stand-alone games in the (App Store by Apple). So I think the store will begin to focus on helping people find things they need. There are also some very elaborate applications we’re seeing emerge that tie into shipping, billing, and inventory systems that run on an iPod Touch, which is a $180 device. And (these applications) allow employees to update all these systems at the touch of a button. That’s the kind of application the press will never hear about, but what we’re going to see a lot of in the next 12 months.

In terms of Parliant, we have more people pounding down our door to write iPhone apps than we can handle. We average three to five requests per day. So I guess those numbers say that if we wanted to focus just on that market we could, and also hire a lot of programmers to do it. But we’re not going to do that, because this conference automation software we have seems to have stirred up a real hornet’s nest. It looks like there’s a lot of low-lying fruit we can pick up with it, so we’re going to do that. Because it’s highly visible, and it feeds back to our strengths.

So in 2010, we’re going to be focusing on selling our Phone Valet products, because they keep the money rolling in, while also continuing to develop other revenue streams.

JOHN REID, president and CEO of CATAAlliance

Last year was very much a “suspension year,” so you’ve got some pent-up demand that we’re going to see. We’re seeing some restoration of confidence, and that will flow into Ottawa.

One area to watch will be information security and public safety; that’s a big market. And through the expansion of networks, there’s a bit of a data deluge going on – there’s a tremendous amount of data being created right now – so there are storage searching issues as well. So those are some of the drivers, along with the consumer element with smartbooks and iPhones, etc., that we’ll see in 2010.

The cloud is now taking hold, where you have all these applications that allow companies to utilize resources in a more efficient way and also to be more agile. Because of this you’re going to see a new generation of leaders and spokespeople for the industry, and that marks a transition, and I think a very positive one. One thing that’s also grabbing hold is the utilization of social networks and how those can help brand a company.

ROB LANE, CEO and co-founder of

In (the online video application) space, we’re now moving from what I call early adoption into mass adoption. What I see is that in the retail space, the big retailers aren’t just thinking about whether they should do something with video anymore – they’re actively doing something in that space. They think video provides a better experience for their customers, and there’s some evidence that it does convert into somewhat higher sales. And I’m seeing that globally. I spent a couple of weeks in Europe before Christmas, and it very much reflected what I’m seeing here. What I’m seeing from people is that they’re saying, “Absolutely, we’re moving on this.”

Our challenge over the next year is difficult, because we’re into scale now – last year we delivered the product, which was video overlay for retail, and for now it’s all about scaling that into multiple channels, both indirect and direct. So it’s about market expansion and sales expansion. And our two biggest geographies are the U.S. and the U.K.; we opened an office in the U.K. last quarter.

It feels like the timing is right in the market with the product we’ve got, and that means we’ve got an opportunity. Twelve months from now, I’ll tell you if it all worked out.

MIKE DARCH, executive director of OCRI Global Marketing

I think (Ottawa) is in a very good position. Certainly, we weathered the financial crisis much better than a lot of other cities – we had to handle the double whammy of the Nortel bankruptcy and the financial crisis, and for a large part we came out of that very well. Our unemployment rate is still low, and our companies are diversifying in both thrust and markets. And we’re well-positioned to take advantage of that in 2010.

If we look at sectors, certainly the whole mobile world is going to move forward. You’ve got companies like DragonWave that are providing the infrastructure to make that happen, you have companies like Magmic and Fuel Industries that are doing well … so I think in that whole space, we’re well positioned. Certainly, clean tech is also well-positioned. In that space, we’ve got young companies that aren’t that well developed yet, but companies like Clearford and Plasco that are waiting for an opportunity. And certainly another area that’s on the rise is the virtual college and virtual education market, and we have a strong offering there as well.

Geographically, I think we’ll see the U.S. recover soon. Where will that be? Likely the wireless world, digital media, security, clean technology – all the areas where we in Ottawa have strength. So the rebuilding of that market will help us, but I think more importantly the emerging markets will be the strongest centres of growth.

Ottawa has always shown itself to launch a new set of companies during times like this. A lot of big, international companies are expanding here … and Ottawa has a history of using adversity to create opportunity.

ROB ASHE, general manager of analytics and performance management at IBM

The business analytics market we play in is estimated to be a $105-billion opportunity. It continues to be a top priority for CIOs, CFOs and CEOs who want to instantly parse mountains of diverse, disconnected pieces of data to move the business forward and improve performance. For the last four years, business analytics has remained a top priority of CIOs surveyed by industry analyst firm Gartner. In our last survey, 83 per cent of global CIOs polled identified business analytics as a top priority.

In 2010, customers will use our IBM Cognos software portfolio to monitor the effectiveness of stimulus spending across industries like health care, education, energy and social services, among other uses. Analytics are now being infused into the infrastructure of cities as municipalities work to improve the use of finite resources and aging infrastructures.

Businesses will continue to want to know where – and how – they are spending money so they can operate more efficiently. The advantages are not limited to corporations: governments are also looking to analyze statistics and make policy changes.

In 2010, the addition of the predictive element will become increasingly more important for customers as well. They want to be able to not only sense and respond to relevant business data, but also predict and take associated action on that data from any location or device.

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DragonWave has its sights set on big U.S. carriers AT&T, Verizon

Posted by sweens on December 15, 2009

Published on December 10th, 2009
Published on December 12th, 2009
Canadian Press

Traffic jams on wireless networks due to iPhone and other smartphone users surfing the Internet and downloading video are an opportunity for DragonWave CEO Peter Allen.

“The pressure on the mobile network is increasing dramatically, and frankly people who have got iPhones consume more of the Internet,” Mr. Allen said from the tech company’s Ottawa headquarters.

“It’s creating more traffic and it’s moving into mobile settings. So that’s where we’re involved.”

DragonWave Inc. (TSX:DWI) makes equipment for telecom companies that are building advanced networks with the goal of making mobile speeds similar or faster than the broadband experience at home and to ease congestion.

The company has already won key U.S. customer Clearwire, which is building a next-generation WiMax network that has started to launch in large U.S. cities.

“They’ve been very aggressive in their buildout and, of course, we’ve benefited from that.”

Clearwire which had been having some funding problems has secured an additional $1.5 billion to further expand its network across the United States.

Mr. Allen said U.S. carrier Sprint is also a DragonWave customer and the company is also looking for wins with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

But he said DragonWave isn’t alone on that front.

“Most of the world with us is competing for AT&T and Verizon right now. So that’s what we’re after in North America.”

National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson said he expects Clearwire to remain an important customer in the next few years for DragonWave, it could be joined by AT&T and Verizon as they build their new networks.

“Our understanding is that DragonWave has been short-listed as a qualifying vendor into the Verizon Wireless deployment,” Mr. Thompson wrote in a recent note.

“We expect AT&T to be at least several months behind Verizon Wireless in awarding contracts that DragonWave can bid on.”

Mr. Allen said 68 per cent of the companies revenues are from North America.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst James Faucette said the opportunities for DragonWave to bid on contracts with Verizon and AT&T aren’t likely to come until late next year.

“While there has been obvious and understandable concern regarding DragonWave’s customer concentration with Clearwire (77 per cent of revenue in the August 2009 quarter), we now believe that Clearwire will be able to maintain its buildout plans during all of 2010 and 2011 now that it has raised additional capital,” he wrote in a research note.

DragonWave was formed in 2000 and has about 250 employees and also has offices in U.K., France, Dubai and Singapore. Its competitors include Israel’s Ceragon Networks and U.S.-based Harris Stratex.

In October, the company listed on the Nasdaq to increase its profile and raised an additional US$74.5 million in an equity financing.

DragonWave earned $6.3 million or 21 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Aug. 31 compared with a loss of $1.7 million or six cents per share a year ago. Revenue for what was the second quarter of the company’s 2010 financial year more than tripled to $35.5 million, compared with $10.6 million a year ago.

In its outlook, the company has said it expects revenue for its 2010 financial year will reach at $150 million.

National’s Mr. Thompson said the company has potential to reach $200 million in annual revenues in its 2011 financial year and a long-term $20 share valuation.

“Investors should expect this stock to be volatile over the near-term as DragonWave’s Nasdaq IPO is concluded and as ownership in the company migrates from a value investor base to a momentum-driven investor base along with a higher concentration of U.S. investors,” he said.

By LuAnn LaSalle

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