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Service to gather content for teachers

Philips gets into the Net service game with PlanetSearch Networks, designed to gather content for surfers and professionals, starting with educators.

    Philips Electronics is launching a new Net service called PlanetSearch Networks, which will aggregate content and news for professionals and Net users with common interests.

    The first site, PlanetK-12, aimed at primary and high school teachers, goes live Monday.

    PlanetK-12 will let teachers search online materials by grade level and subject in order to build resources into their curricula. Users can also exchange lesson plans and projects in a special area called the "Teachers Lounge." Another feature tracks national education standards and policies. The site also links to daily news, including magazine articles and TV coverage about teaching and learning.

    "There has been a tremendous emphasis on getting hardware to the schools and wiring them to the Net," Steven Leventhal, PlanetSearch Networks' general manager, said today. "However, we found that there has been very little support and content made available to educators. There is a tremendously strong community spirit among educators and they really need this service."

    As more consumers enter the online medium, companies are competing with the likes of America Online to bring new Net surfers alternative, customized gateways to cyberspace.

    Later this year, PlanetSearch Networks will launch a site geared toward the medical community, according to its Web page. Currently, the PlanetSearch site features directories such as WhoWhere and GTE SuperPages.

    The Philips Multimedia Center, which created the network, also developed a Web search engine that color-codes relevant keywords within documents. In addition, the service collects and links to news, sports, and entertainment sites around the Web.

    As PlanetSearch enters the market, it will vie for eyeballs against well-established and other up-and-coming sites that aggregate Web content, such as Yahoo, Excite, Planet Direct, LookSmart, and Snap Online. (Snap is a division of CNET: The Computer Network, which publishes NEWS.COM.)

    Philips is known for its consumer electronic products, and as a maker of WebTV devices. The company plans to leverage PlanetSearch using WebTVs and Net access devices that are still under development. A customized version of PlanetK-12 for Web TV will be available October 1.

    "The Net is gradually becoming accessible from very non-PC products such as handheld devices, screen phones, and WebTVs," Leventhal said. "We will use PlanetSearch to provide community gateways to the Net through these devices."

    Philips Multimedia Center has no plans to create original content for its target market sites. Along with the links to other sites, Philips has made deals to provide content from certain providers, such as the Reuters news service. PlanetK-12's Web address when it launches on Monday will be "www.planetk-12.com."