March 13, 1997 11:15 AM ET
Push comes to shove over PointCast Connections
By Michael Fitzgerald

  LOS ANGELES -- PointCast Inc.'s decision to open its broadcast model drew strong reactions from observers and rivals here at Internet World.

"It's brilliant," said Steve Hess, president of Internet Strategies International, in Campbell, Calif. "It opens up areas in their strategy that were a weakness for them" by turning the proprietary technology into a potential standard and widening its channel to small and medium-size Web sites, Hess said.

"They're dumbing down the Web," said Jo Ann Sager, director of corporate strategy at BackWeb Technologies, in San Jose, Calif. Sager said the new PointCast Connections would hold little appeal for the corporate subscribers who currently make up the bulk of PointCast's audience.

While PointCast officials talked about the advantages corporations would realize with this new development, others saw the announcement as a way to gain a greater consumer presence.

"Their whole pitch is consumers," said Bob Schoettle, vice president of marketing at Wayfarer Communications Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., adding that he thought it would do little to make the Web more useful. "I don't see it cleaning up the clutter; I see it adding to the clutter."

Not everybody agreed.

"It's very good for businesses," said Michael Pierantozzi, senior consultant at The McKenna Group, a high-tech strategy firm in Palo Alto, Calif. "It plays out well in the intranet/extranet arena. A firm like ours would like to develop content specific to our different clients," and the Connections technology would help distribute it, Pierantozzi said.

Some rivals called the move a natural step for PointCast.

"It's smart," said David Pool, president of DataChannel, a business-focused "push" vendor in Bellevue, Wash. "It's their way of taking the entire Net and using it as a content source."

For or against, one big question lingers: How is PointCast going to make money? The company, which plans to give the software away for free to Web publishers, won't be selling advertising against its new content.

"I would call it a derivative revenue opportunity as opposed to direct revenues," said Chris Hassett, president and CEO of PointCast.

Hassett said the move will draw more viewers, who will spend more than the 12 to 15 hours a week they now spend on the site, and allow PointCast to create niche PointCasts.

ZDNet owner Softbank is an investor in the PointCast network.

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