Is MySpace Closing In on Microsoft's Space?

In its controversial licensing agreements with PC makers, Microsoft has insisted on controlling that area of the PC screen real estate known as the Windows desktop. But a Seattle startup has announced a unique application and content launching toolbar that operates outside that space, avoiding Microsoft's contract rules in the process. Pixel Co.'s MySpace utility runs in a region known as the overscan area. It's a space about 30 pixels high at the bottom of your screen, below the regular desktop.

In its controversial licensing agreements with PC makers, Microsoft has insisted on controlling that area of the PC screen real estate known as the Windows desktop. But a Seattle startup has announced a unique application and content launching toolbar that operates outside that space, avoiding Microsoft's contract rules in the process.

Pixel Co.'s MySpace utility runs in a region known as the overscan area. It's a space about 30 pixels high at the bottom of your screen, below the regular desktop.

According to Pixel officials, MySpace's advantages are that it doesn't encroach on the user's desktop, and it's better than existing "launch bars" and "dashboards" because it offers more options and flexibility.

MySpace appears as a series of cylinders, each representing a category of applications on the PC or content out on the Web. A cylinder can be rolled with your mouse to reveal subsets of the category. For example, a cylinder for news might include links to PC World Online, CNN, @IDG and other sites.

Packard Bell NEC will include MySpace on some of its home PCs later this month. Pixel plans to broaden distribution by September, with other original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deals and a user-downloadable version.

Microsoft officials said they hadn't seen MySpace yet and had no comment on whether it violates the company's licensing restrictions.

Pixel Chief Technical Officer David Nason says his company isn't looking for a fight, but its lawyers feel the company is on firm legal ground.

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