?Push is not dead?, said PointCast president and CEO David Dorman at the introduction of version 2.5 of the PointCast Network.
Dorman outlined plans to expand the user base of its proprietary Push software, but said the company also intends to build a larger Web presence to complement it.
PointCast president and CEO David Dorman delivered a spirited defence of the company?s business model. ?A year ago, everyone wanted to be associated with Push technology?, he said. ?Today, no one wants to be associated with it. I just would like to put the record straight. Push is not dead. Push is hard. And there is dead push technology.?
PointCast was founded in 1992. In 1995, it launched the PointCast Network, the first Internet Push service. Its early success, and the Push hype that accompanied it, spawned at least a dozen look-alike Push companies. Most of these have since dropped off the radar screen. One key competitor, BackWeb, now concentrates almost exclusively on the intranet market. Another, Marimba, specialises in software distribution.
PointCast stuck to its roots: delivering free news content ? and paid advertising - to the desktop. It has since released free tools that allow companies to limit the use of bandwidth by caching information, and also distribute their own corporate information to the PointCast client.
And, in addition to its own Push client, it also offers its information via an Internet Explorer 4.0 channel. The company claims its user base grew 52 percent in the last year, and now stands at 1.3 million.
David Dorman said the idea that Push technology would be subsumed in the Web Browser ?turned out not to be true?. Despite the fact that PointCast itself offers an IE4 channel, Dorman said the Push technology now embedded in Netscape?s and Microsoft?s browsers is slow and inefficient, and is harder for users to customise to their information needs.
?[The browsers] put Push in as a feature?, said Dorman. ?It is not the major focus for them?. PointCast?s own software has also often been criticised for being slow and for hogging system resources ? a claim David Dorman disputes.
PointCast Network 2.5 will be available early next month. It will offer more channels of specialised, vertical content for businesses such as healthcare, real estate, and state and local government.
It will also be easier to sign up for these channels: based on the information a user provides when he registers for PointCast Network, he will automatically be signed up for certain channels of interest to him. An important new feature in PointCast 2.5 will be the support of multicasting, allowing companies to send information to all their employees at the same time. It will also allow them to send out real-time alerts to all users.
In the future, the PointCast software will move from a ?one size fits all? client to special versions tailored to the needs of LAN or internet users, David Dorman said.
Though PointCast focuses mainly on business users, the company also increasingly intends to target home users. PointCast also said it will expand its presence on the Web. Currently, the PointCast client has a button which leads the user to a Web site called EntryPoint. Over the next year, this Web site will be expanded to include all of the news content now offered via the PointCast client.
David Dorman said the company intends to grow the site into something similar to the Web sites of Yahoo or AOL, possibly including free e-mail.
Dorman said advertising revenue now accounts for more than 90 per cent of the privately held company?s income. He said the company now ranks 8th in total Web advertising revenue.
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