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Pointcast changes HP's mind

Once HP prohibited employees from using PointCast in the office, but now it's broadcasting company and industry-related news to hundreds.

On Monday, PointCast is expected to announce that Hewlett-Packard has had a change of heart.

Once the computer giant prohibited employees from using PointCast in the office, but now it's using the service to broadcast company and industry-related news to hundreds of its employees.

Hewlett-Packard's software and services group has created "The Edge," an internal news channel that currently goes out to nearly 1,000 employees in the group, with plans to expand it out to the unit's entire 27,000 workers.

"Hewlett-Packard had banned PointCast from its offices about 18 months ago and said so publicly," said Jaleh Bisharat, vice president of marketing for PointCast. "That was in the period in which PointCast had recently begun shipping [its software] and it had gotten popular very quickly, to where corporations were concerned about bandwidth consumption."

PointCast, which has seen slower subscriber growth than most industry watchers expected from a company that seemed the hottest "push" company, has encountered some rough times in making its case to corporate customers. But last fall, things began to change from Hewlett-Packard's perspective.

"When PointCast came out with an Internet server product that allowed us to cache inside the firewall, we tested it out," said Bill Hornung, managing editor for The Edge. "At that point, we felt comfortable with it and thought it was a great concept, so long as it didn't bring the network down."

The software and services group then began working with PointCast to develop its channel. The Edge's staff culls through company and industry news to find the most relevant and important information to send to members in its group.

"We have an information-overloaded group," said Hornung, citing the plethora of email and voicemail that goes out to group members. "This is important for our [sales and service] field people. They have to represent to the customer all that we do here and how we do it."

The concept may be adopted by other business units at Hewlett-Packard, Hornung added.

Bisharat said Hewlett-Packard is among its 20 largest corporate accounts, based on the number of its users.

PointCast, which recently shelved its initial public offering plans as it entered talks with potential media company investors, largely makes its money based on advertising revenues.

The company released PointCast 2.5 earlier this year, which enables corporate users to support broadcasting data across internal corporate networks and the Internet. Bisharat said a number of companies are testing version 2.5 and that PointCast is on the "cusp" of gaining wider use.