Another "push" player aims for the intranet

The burgeoning field of 'push' technologies has gained another significant player, with software that gives IS managers more control over Web users' desktops for intranet applications coming soon from a start-up company headed by Spry's founder and former CEO, Dave Pool.

The burgeoning field of "push" technologies has gained another significant player, with software that gives IS managers more control over Web users' desktops for intranet applications coming soon from a start-up company headed by Spry's founder and former CEO, Dave Pool.

Pool founded Data Channels in October and and promises a launch of the company's flagship Channel Manager early next year. The product includes administration tools that let IS managers map Internet and intranet resources to users' browsers.

Channel Manager also includes database software that tracks links to resources and controls access to different levels of information. Client software displays the data in a customised format.

The software lets IS managers develop customized information services akin to PointCast, the widespread service that pushes Internet information out to Web users. Like PointCast, information that is mapped to a browser gets updated automatically, without making users surf through Web pages.

Channel Manager, however, is geared more toward intranet users, letting IS managers add corporate data to the mix and govern users' access rights. IS managers can create profiles for user groups, such as specific departments or individual users, Pool says.

One potential customer, Digital Systems International, a systems integrator in Redmond, Washington, is considering building customised "push" applications for its clients' call centres.

Customer service staff could pull product information and corporate news off a Channel Manager client area that frames the customer information system interface.

The staff would then be better prepared to answer offbeat questions from callers without leaving their primary application, said Brian Moore, director of professional services at Digital Systems.

Although Channel Manager may appeal to IS managers' need for more control, it won't suit all end-users.

"Information workers are not going to be happy with this because it is too restrictive," says Harry Fenick, an analyst at Zona Research, in Redwood City, California.

For instance, the product might be useful for IS managers building applications that provide clerical workers with specific information from an intranet, Fenick said. But it will not be popular with workers who want and need access to a broader range of information than the application developers might provide.

Other Channel Manager features include a presentation management toolset that lets developers and end-users customize the display of incoming content, and advanced notification technology that only modifies content that has changed to reduce network traffic.

Channel Manager is scheduled to ship in January and will cost US$25 to $50 per user.

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