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<nettime> plug pulled on push
nettime's_roving_reporter on Thu, 30 Mar 2000 19:31:26 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> plug pulled on push


<http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,35208,00.html>

   PointCast Coffin About to Shut
   by Craig Bicknell
   
   3:00 a.m. Mar. 29, 2000 PST
   
   In March 1997, a blazing-neon Wired Magazine cover featured this
   spectacularly pompous prediction:
   
   "Remember the browser war between Netscape and Microsoft? Well, forget
   it. The Web browser itself is about to croak. And good riddance. In
   its place ... PUSH!"
   
   People would no longer "pull" news and information from websites; the
   bits would be "pushed" to them, wherever they might be. "Push media
   will penetrate environments that have been media free -- work, school,
   church, the solitude of a country walk," Wired proclaimed.
   
   Wired's story was but one flake in a blizzard of media hype.
   
   Exactly three years later, something's croaking all right --
   PointCast, the former poster child of PUSH! itself.
   
   On April 1, EntryPoint, the company that picked up terminally ill
   PointCast for pocket change last year, pulls the life-support plug.
   
   No more PointCast, no April-fooling.
   
   "I find it phenomenal that they lasted as long as they did," said Jim
   Opfer, president of LaunchPower, a Palo Alto, California incubator
   backed by the venture capital firm Altos Ventures.
   
   It's the end of an exceptionally notorious technology brand, one
   simultaneously built and destroyed by the zeal of the media and
   venture capitalists trying to latch onto the Next Big Thing.
   
   Even while it was trumpeted, PointCast's bloated software and
   network-clogging data downloads irritated the consumers and network
   managers who'd heard the hype and installed the software.
   
   PointCast was faltering, yet VCs continued to pour boatloads of money
   into other push companies.
   
   "These supposed experts thought they knew what was going on, and that
   push was it," Opfer said. "All of a sudden there were 32 push
   companies."
   
   PointCast became synonymous with push, and when it flailed, the whole
   category suffered the backlash. "A whole lot of VCs lost their ass
   investing in push companies," said Opfer, who once was CEO of a failed
   push company himself.
   
   PointCast, which took in tens of millions in venture capital and once
   spurned a $400-million-plus offer in its heyday, was sold last year
   for $7 million.
   
   Companies like Marimba, another early push star, have spent two years
   undoing the damage of the big push bust.
   
   "With PointCast's problems, the whole push category started getting a
   black eye, and any company that was closely associated with that
   category started getting that black eye," Marimba CEO Kim Polese said
   in a recent Upside Magazine interview. "And that's always a challenge,
   because no matter how much you try to educate the market on what
   you're doing, once they lock into something, it's very difficult to
   get people to hear."
   
   Marimba has successfully repositioned itself as a technology company.
   
   The demise of PointCast does not, however, mean that push is dead. Or
   ill, even.
   
   "The ultimate push is email. It was and it will be," said Opfer, the
   former CEO of Inquisit, a company that tried to compete with PointCast
   by delivering tailored email. "There's only one thing I can tell you
   for sure about the Web in 50 years, and that's that there will be
   email."
   
   Inquisit (once named Farcast) never took off, and Opfer places some of
   the blame squarely on the PointCast phenomenon.
   
   "I always got the same words from VCs, 'Email? Passe. Push is where
   it's at.' I had to fight, fight, fight the PointCast hype. The push
   hype managed to kill good companies that were sticking with the
   basics."
   
   Other email firms are now thriving, however, and companies like
   FireDrop, backed by venture capital firm and king-maker Kleiner
   Perkins, are introducing hybrid email/Web products that can
   dynamically update email. Kind of a push within a push.
   
   PointCast users, meanwhile, have been invited to switch over to
   EntryPoint, a slimmed-down desktop application that also delivers news
   and information to desktops, but doesn't download and store Web pages
   as PointCast had.
   
   "We've evolved a lot of the key elements of PointCast into
   EntryPoint," said EntryPoint CEO Francis Costello. "We see it as a
   next generation rather than as the end."
   
   Over 2 million consumers have downloaded EntryPoint since last
   October, Costello said. The proliferation of cell phones and PDAs
   promises more platforms for EntryPoint (and email firms).
   
   But please, don't call EntryPoint a "push" product.
   
   "You guys in the media keep using it, but I'm not sure what 'push'
   means," Costello said. "We're a desktop attention player. We focus on
   notifying you what's going on."
   
   Copyright  2000 Wired Digital Inc., a Lycos Network site. All rights
   reserved.

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