Pointcast finally finds a buyer -- Idealab

After more than a year's effort, once-hot push technology pioneer Pointcast has finally found a buyer. The new owner is San Diego-based Launchpad Technology, one of the many Internet start-up companies established by California-based idealab. Launchpad is involved on the payment side of electronic commerce, having developed eWallet software for PCs.

After more than a year's effort, once-hot push technology pioneer Pointcast has finally found a buyer.

The new owner is San Diego-based Launchpad Technology, one of the many Internet start-up companies established by idealab in Pasadena, California.

Launchpad is involved on the payment side of electronic commerce, having developed eWallet software for PCs.

The company will integrate the Pointcast technology with the eWallet tools. But whereas Pointcast today is known for broadcasting news from hundreds of sources to subscribers' PCs, Launchpad will use the technology to push information of new products and sales from online merchants to customers.

Investor Bill Gross, who is head of idealab, did not state the price of the acquisition. Figures ranging from $US7 million to $10 million have been floated in various published reports. If the price is that modest, it is evidence of Pointcast's lost luster: back in 1996, Rupert Murdoch's News Group reportedly offered $400 million for the company. The founder of Pointcast, Chris Hassett, turned down the offer; he subsequently left the company in 1997.

Pointcast was founded in 1992 and soon achieved icon status, like that of Amazon.com today. Push technology was at that time hailed even as browser killer. However the technology soon became unpopular among IT managers, because it periodically gulped bandwidth in order to update the client screens. Some companies even banned the use of Pointcast, which later updated its technology to solve this problem. However, the server software was not free like the client software.

Today pull technology has won, as people apparently prefer to receive news by e-mail instead of being flooded constantly by news accompanied by advertisements. Furthermore the browsers appeal more to users than the proprietary software from Pointcast.

The company is now working on Web-based software, but it hasn't yet had an effect on its fortunes. Recently Pointcast had to lay off 75 people, a third of its employees. In March, Chief Executive Officer David Dorman left for another company.

idealabs' Bill Gross is presently also head of TouchPad Technologies. He expects more of his companies to make use of what he calls the next generation of Pointcast services. Amongst the companies are eToys, City Search, WeddingChannel and Tickets.com. Besides Bill Gross himself several others are investors in idealab -- Ben Rosen, chairman of Compaq Corp. is one of them.

Pointcast, which is also established in UK and Germany, will continue delivering its traditional news services.

Pointcast be reached at +1-408-990-7000 or http://www.pointcast.com. idealab can be reached at +1-626-585-6900 or http://www.idealab.com. Launchpad can be reached at +1-619-578-8500 or http://www.ewallet.com.

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