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PointCast wants to deliver

PointCast will introduce a new version of its software that improves users' ability to gather custom information and download times.

By next week, PointCast expects to introduce a new version of its specialized software that will improve users' ability to gather custom information and download times.

Originally introduced last February, PointCast's software combines a Web browser with specialized screen saver technology, and is designed to work with an information service called the PointCast Network, which broadcasts Web information rather than requiring users to seek out sites manually. Heralded as a major shift in Web publishing, PointCast's TV-style "push" method of distributing Web information, such as news headlines, stock quotes, and advertisements to users has also been noticed by two Net vendors, Microsoft and Netscape Communications.

In future versions of Internet Explorer and Navigator, both companies intend to offer users the ability to "tune in" to Web channels through browsers that are better integrated with operating systems than PointCast.

But PointCast has no intention of getting out of the software business to focus exclusively on its information service, though it will not rule out future partnerships with Microsoft and Netscape, according to Jaleh Bisharat, PointCast vice president of marketing.

"We realize that users need to have a seamless experience," Bisharat said. "We see (Netscape and Microsoft's browsers) as major opportunities for PointCast."

With version 1.1 of PointCast, with a Windows version due out next week, the company will add compression capabilities that will improve download times of information by scrunching files as much as 50 percent. The new software will also allow users to select "channels"--information that is arranged into themes, such as sports or financial news--for faster downloading. Users currently have to download all of the channels on the PointCast Network.

A Macintosh version of PointCast will appear in the fall.

In October, PointCast 1.1 will also be available in retail outlets and will come with access to the Internet through AT&T's WorldNet service, Bisharat said. The company will continue to sign up new channels to its service and has already inked deals with the San Jose Mercury News, The New York Times, CMP Publications, and CNN, Bisharat said.