December 11, 1996 6:00 PM ET
Microsoft, PointCast in Internet broadcasting deal
By Margaret Kane

  NEW YORK - When users of Microsoft Corp.'s new Active Desktop technology go looking for news, they'll be able to find it over the PointCast Network.

PointCast Inc. signed a deal with Microsoft today that will give its Internet broadcast network a "premiere spot" on Microsoft's new Active Desktop. That spot, according to Microsoft Vice President Brad Chase, will let PointCast "have their content delivered to millions of users."

Active Desktop, which Microsoft demonstrated at a press conference here at Internet World, merges the Internet and the desktop in such a way that users can switch between the two without realizing they're going to different applications. For instance, World Wide Web sites can be accessed via the "My Computer" area without launching a browser to get onto the Internet.

Active Desktop is expected to be released in the first half of 1997.

And as with PointCast's service, Active Desktop will feature "channels" that allow users to get information from corporate intranets, LANs or the Internet and to organize it into specific areas.

PointCast will appear to users not as a folder or icon on the desktop, but as a channel in Active Desktop.

"Not only do we want to make access to content easier, but we want users to have access to more content," Chase said.

PointCast has also agreed to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer its preferred browser and will include MSNBC, Microsoft's joint venture with NBC, as a channel on its broadcast network.

"ActiveX really allows us to deliver an impact. It allows us to repurpose the medium," said Chris Hassett, chairman of PointCast.

Neither Chase nor Hassett would discuss the financial terms of the deal or its exclusivity. But Chase and other Microsoft officials repeatedly referred to PointCast as the "first" premiere provider.

Being a premiere provider could be very important to a company's success, said Mark Hardie, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.

"PointCast will probably pick up more [content providers] now," Hardie said, adding that content providers who don't achieve the "premiere" spot on Microsoft's desktop may simply choose to go elsewhere, specifically, to Netscape Communications Corp.'s Constellation product, which will run on top of that company's Navigator browser and appear as a desktop shell.

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