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Quarterdeck cuts line

Trying to get past last year's financial mess and executive turmoil, the utilities firm pares its products.

Trying to emerge from last year's financial mess and executive turmoil, Quarterdeck (QDEK) announced today that it is paring its product lineup.

The utilities company will phase out a host of Internet products, including WebTalk, WebAuthor, TotalWeb, and Mosaic, spokeswoman Ana Thorne said. Other products could follow, she added, but no plans have been finalized.

Quarterdeck is also looking for new sources of revenues. The company next week plans to unveil details of its premium help service, in which customers who don't want to wait on the phone can pay a fee and receive immediate service.

The pricing structure will be based on customers paying for solving a single problem, rather than for each call, Thorne said. The practice is not uncommon in the industry, where various levels of tech support have fees attached.

Quarterdeck will continue with what it calls its "core product set" of desktop utilities including the Procomm Plus communications package, the CleanSweep uninstaller, Fix-It/WINProbe, Partition-It, QEMM memory management, IWare network management, and WebCompass.

But the dropping the Internet products could be seen as a further renouncement of former CEO Gaston Bastiaens, who resigned last August after expanding Quarterdeck's product lineup to embrace the Internet.

Bastiaens's departure was followed by an investor lawsuit that accused Quarterdeck executives of making false statements about the financial health of the company and giving misleading information about its Internet and data communications products between January 26 and June 13.

Curt Hessler, who succeeded Bastiaens, was already in place when the company announced a slim $20,000 profit and revenues of $24.4 million for the quarter ending December 31. The company has posted declining year-to-year quarterly revenues for the last four reporting periods and posted back-to-back quarterly losses in the June and September quarters.

However, the company said it expects to meet analysts' estimates when it reports its next quarterly results at the end of April. For the quarter ending March 30, two analysts estimate that Quarterdeck will just about break even, according to the First Call financial report service.

Quarterdeck's stock closed today up three-quarters of a point at 3.