Sinatra probably wasn't singing about it, but MyWay might be the first of myriad PointCast competitors with a good enough story to make a name for itself.
MyWay is like a butler or a concierge for the World Wide Web, said Ariel Sella, president of MyWay Online Inc. (formerly known as Jabiru), based in Cambridge, Mass. Sella said that MyWay is a client/server, agent-driven search tool, just like PointCast and other personal broadcast networks. The difference is that MyWay aggregates content from all over the Web, not just from proprietary sources the way PointCast does, and it sits on the desktop, acting almost as an interface to the Web.
The product, which has been shipping unannounced on Packard Bell NEC Inc. Multimedia Select desktops, features an icon-driven interface designed to make it easy for consumers to get on the Web.
Being on the desktop makes MyWay more of a desktop search service than a straight PointCast competitor, said Ted Julian, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.
"That kind of focus will help [MyWay] stand out," Julian said. "I'm not aware of anyone else who is trying it from the desktop." Julian said being on the desktop might also help MyWay bring value-add to advertisers.
Even with this differentiator, MyWay faces major challenges, Julian said. There is plenty of competition, for starters, both in the content aggregating and search service markets, and many Web sites are beginning to store information in databases, rather than on their sites, making search engines less useful. Drumming up advertising will also be a challenge.
Sella recognizes that MyWay has a big battle ahead of it. The company's consumer focus means it has to mount an education campaign to change the way home users use their PCs.
Right now, consumers use computers like food processors, turning them off when finished, Sella said. He wants to get consumers used to leaving their PCs on, especially for Web searches, in much the way that a VCR records shows while a television is off.
Still, when the product is formally announced next month, it will come on all Packard Bell NEC PCs, and Sella is working on bundling deals with other PC makers. The mid-January announcement will also include MyWay Select, which will feature content from specific providers, including QVC and CNN.
MyWay will be updated in February to include a full offline browser. The company, which currently uses the Lycos search engine, is building its own search technology as well. MyWay's current interface is set up to look like an on-screen personal digital assistant, with a screen that has icons representing 14 channels, or topic areas, and a separate screen that lists a variety of subtopics.