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"Push" may come to shove

A start-up formed by an Internet pioneer is seeking beta testers for its new tools to manage corporate intranets and help employees get access to the Net.

A start-up formed by an Internet pioneer in Bellevue, Washington, is seeking beta testers for its new tools to manage corporate intranets and help employees get access to the Net.

David Pool, founder of Spry and creator of the Internet In A Box software suite, today announced the beta program and formation of his new company, DataChannel. The company was formed this month and has eight employees; it is also funded by Pool.

DataChannel's first product, code-named Outlaw, is scheduled to ship by year's end and enables corporations to deliver specific information to employees' desktops.

"We provide administration tools to customize the presentation of content from lots of places, internal and external," Pool said. "It keeps a profile and data presentation [for each user] on a server, either my server or your server. When I sign on from home, I want to see the same presentation with links, as I do from work."

Outlaw manages how a user's screen appears and what content, Web links, or corporate information is delivered to each desktop. It lets IS departments set up some parameters as suggestions but allows users to configure some options for themselves.

Pool positions DataChannel and its products as competing with PointCast, which performs similar functions by delivering Internet content directly to the user's desktop as a screensaver. PointCast has just launched I-Server, an intranet version of its software that lets companies stream corporate information to desktops.

Unlike ad-supported PointCast, DataChannel will get its revenue from software sales. DataChannel also claims to allow greater customization and control for corporate managers in how Outlaw configures user desktops.

While PointCast is useful to consumers, "there is a need to offer tools that let business managers customize content and presentation for their companies," Pool said. DataChannel's tools allow corporations to deliver up-to-the-minute information designed specifically to meet the needs of each department, group, or individual within the enterprise.

"The first milestone of a product is that it ships and works," said Jaleh Bisharat, PointCast's vice president of marketing. "We haven't seen [DataChannel's]product, and I don't think anyone has. The magic is in the execution."

The company said Outlaw will also include the following features:
--allowing businesses to specify customized interfaces and information for each user's desktop
--offering secure, automated log-ons to speed Internet access
--enabling the contents and configuration of an employee's desktop to travel wherever he or she does, either at home, on business trips, or at other remote locations.

Outlaw will be free to individual users and compatible with both Microsoft and Netscape Communications browsers and Web servers. No pricing has been set.