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Intermind to push relevant content

Intermind will announce a new version of its Intermind Communicator software, designed to notify users of news and other information tailored to their preferences.

Intermind says it has come up with a way to make push technology more personal.

Later this week, Intermind will announce a new version of its Intermind Communicator client and server that is designed to notify users of news and other information tailored to their preferences, rather than blitz them with irrelevant content.

Push technology is intended to save users the hassle of having to check their favorite Web sites for new information by automatically retrieving the data. But most push technologies, including PointCast and Netscape Communications' Netcaster, offer only rudimentary capabilities for filtering content. Typically, users can only choose whether to subscribe to a channel, not whether they can receive information about specific areas, such as automobiles or ice hockey.

Netscape, Firefly, and others are leading an effort to simplify the delivery of personalized information. In May, the companies proposed a technology, called the open profiling standard (OPS), that will allow users to build digital dossiers on their identity and preferences and to protect the data from interlopers. Microsoft later backed the initiative.

But Intermind believes that it can deliver a similar technology before the companies release their first OPS-based products. Communicator 2.0 is expected to go into testing in August and ship later in the third quarter this year.

According to Matt Highsmith, president and chief executive of Intermind, the key to Communicator 2.0's personalization features will be a "meta-content" language called intelligent information interchange (I3). That technology will allow users to register their basic preferences with Communicator and for publishers to gather more detailed information if they wish.

Eventually, Highsmith said, Communicator will be able to execute specific tasks on a user's behalf. For example, a user will be able to configure the software to purchase a novel with a credit card from an online bookseller as soon as a title fell within a certain price range, he added. However, that feature will not be in the initial 2.0 version of the Intermind software.

The new personalization capabilities could help the company compete more effectively against bigger players in the push market. In early April, the company began laying off 17 percent of its workforce, principally from its marketing department.

"That move was to reinvest in the development side," Highsmith noted. "What you're seeing with 2.0 is the result of that reinvestment."

Intermind is partly backed by an investment group belonging to cellular phone pioneer Craig McCaw. The company already offers more 250 channels from companies such as HotWired, CBS, and Excite.