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Report pooh-poohs push

Despite the current hoopla about software featuring "push" capabilities from Netscape and Microsoft, a new report questions the real business values of this technology.

Despite the current hoopla about new beta software featuring "push" capabilities from Microsoft and Netscape Communications, a report released today questions the real business values of this technology.

It is not the first time that such criticism has been leveled at push, which sends information and software directly to users' desktops without requiring them to request it. But the "bulletin" released by the Hurwitz Group is a sober reminder that many users may find the technology overblown. Like many new technologies, it could be another example of "a solution in search of a problem," as the consulting group puts it.

"The fundamental limitation of push technology is the user," said Ezra Gottheil, director of Hurwitz Group's Internet business strategies service. "Most people do not need additional interruptions. Their jobs do not require much time-critical information, and the telephone and email deliver more than enough new information."

Push technology advocates such as PointCast defend the technology, saying it helps make employees more productive by helping them sift through the clutter of information that inundates them. PointCast, as well as Microsoft and Netscape, brag about the battery of Web publishers they've assembled to make getting news and other information quickly and easily.

In jobs where large batches of information are required on the desktop, the Hurwitz Group agrees that push can indeed reduce the workload. It just questions the size of the market.

To gauge demand, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation considered buying PointCast this spring for more than $450 million, sources said. The buyout didn't occur, and some Silicon Valley executives said that PointCast should have accepted the high offer because push technology still remains unproven. The push company is laying the groundwork to go public, a much riskier proposition, executives speculated.

Despite its skepticism regarding push, the Hurwitz Group thinks the capability will be valuable in software development and upgrading. These products, based on "pull-based" push technology, will be available later this year, and Hurwitz Group "expects them to significantly lower the cost of desktop computers."