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Ads shoved off push network

If PointCast is the Internet equivalent of an advertising-supported TV network, Wayfarer Communications is gunning for the role of public broadcaster.

If PointCast is the Internet equivalent of an advertising-supported TV network, Wayfarer Communications is gunning for the role of public broadcaster.

Later this month, Wayfarer will introduce a software package and information service that leaves out the distracting ads that are beamed to users' desktops, along with newsfeeds and horoscopes, through the PointCast Network.

Like PointCast, Wayfarer's technology, code-named Magnets, "pushes"--or automatically broadcasts--information to PCs through specialized server and client software. Both technologies provide a way to catch a user's eye with a news story, sports score, or animation without requiring them to trek out to a Web site.

But while PointCast has based most of its business on aggregating information providers into advertising-supported "channels," Wayfarer says it will aim its software and information services at companies that don't want their employees to be blitzed by ads all day. PointCast also sells a corporate version of its software, called IServer, but that product still includes channels with ads.

"The biggest difference is that PointCast is really a consumer product," said Bob Schoettle, vice president of marketing at Wayfarer. "Magnets is really a business product. PointCast is a nice product, but it has a lot of advertising and no business content."

But Magnets' lineup of information sources, though ad-free, is anemic compared with the channels available on the PointCast Network. Wayfarer will initially provide information from Reuters, PR Newswire, and PC Quote.

Magnets, which will include a client, server, and authoring tool, will also give companies a greater degree of control over custom information broadcasts than PointCast's IServer, Schoettle said. The company will announce an official name for the product and pricing later this month.

Aalysts say Wayfarer's solution may be more appealing to a businesses than PointCast.

"PointCast is taking a consumer technology and adapting it, almost under duress, for the corporate marketplace," said Ira Machevsky, a senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group. "They're shoving indiscriminate information at desktops and saying you can have one channel to yourself."