February 17, 2000 12:45 PM PST

PointCast sends its final push broadcast

Once a promising start-up, PointCast has finally laid to rest its flagship technology with little fanfare.

The company that created a buzz over "push" technology sent an email this past week to subscribers announcing the final broadcast of news and information over the PointCast Network.

The announcement brings PointCast's turbulent history to a somewhat anticlimactic end. The firm went from being considered the next big thing to nearly bust before it was acquired and its flagship product discontinued.

Push technology was seen as one of the first "killer applications" on the Internet. PointCast delivered information automatically to a PC according to programmed preferences, eliminating the need to surf several Web sites to gather specific news or material.

PointCast opened its doors as a news delivery service nearly five years ago. Yet the company may have been doomed from the start. In a market where many Net consumers surfed over dial-up connections, the bandwidth-intensive service was seen as too slow. Corporations also cut ties with PointCast as the automatic broadcasts often congested local area networks.

Push technology, however, has found new life in the corporate market in a different format. Companies such as Marimba have founded successful businesses pushing software updates directly to users' desktops.

Marimba hit Wall Street last year with a blockbuster public offering. The stock now trades in the mid-40s.

After a canceled IPO and a series of failed merger and partnership attempts, PointCast was picked up by venture capital firm Idealab last May. The firm integrated PointCast with another of its acquired firms, Launchpad Technologies. Launchpad sells e-commerce software for online shopping called eWallet.

While the terms of the deal were Puppet masters: Who controls the Net not disclosed, sources at the time estimated the price tag was about $10 million in cash and stock--far less than earlier valuations for the privately held company.

"We had numerous offers on board. But this was the best deal for all the shareholders and employees regarding long-term value-creation potential," PointCast chief executive Phil Koen said at the time of the deal. "At the end of the day, we felt this was a superior offer."

The merged firm is now called EntryPoint and is based in San Diego. PointCast's push technology has been slowly integrated into an EntryPoint toolbar product, which allows Net users to receive targeted portfolio information and personalized news online.

"We believe that EntryPoint 2.0 represents such a vast improvement over PointCast, that we have decided to completely phase out the PointCast service in favor of this new product," the company said in an email message to users.

EntryPoint is hoping to retain the remaining PointCast users, and it has said it is committed to providing even better service than its predecessor, according to Francis Costello, the company's president.

But EntryPoint may have a difficult task.

"Unfortunately, I think the replacement is frustrating compared to the simplicity of PointCast," one user wrote in an email to CNET News.com.

 

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