Magazine article Online

Getting to the Point of 'Push.' (PointCast's Pointcast Network 'Push' Information Delivery)

Magazine article Online

Getting to the Point of 'Push.' (PointCast's Pointcast Network 'Push' Information Delivery)

Article excerpt

In the very near future, the PointCast Network and the "push technology" that it uses could be extremely important to information professionals as an information delivery model. However, at the present time, PointCast is a product that showcases the technology well, but is of limited overall use to information professionals.

PointCast (http://www.pointcast. com) provides add-on software that will shoot news to your desktop computer on a continuous or scheduled basis. A large amount of the information it currently disseminates, however, can be found in other places on the web that, like PointCast, do not charge for use. Many of those other sites house more content, are updated more frequently, and are searchable. In other words, you must "pull" out the information useful to you.

PUSHING AND PULLING

So how is information "pushed?" The "push model" used by PointCast and a growing list of other companies (Amulet, Paracel, Individual, Farcast) allows content providers to deliver material directly to your desktop, automatically, after you select the type or types of materials to receive. These selections are often referred to as channels, similar to broadcast television channels. Using the "push model" brings information to your desktop automatically instead of making you go out and do a search. That model, used by traditional online services and numerous sites and search services on the web, is referred to as the "pull model." You must locate the needed information and then "pull" the material back to your browser to view, read, listen, etc.

TUNING IN TO POINTCAST

The PointCast Network client software (available for both PCs and Macs) can be downloaded free from the company's web site. Hardware requirements suggest that the PointCast Client for the PC needs a 486/33 or faster IBM PC-compatible, 8MB of RAM; 10MB free disk space, and a 256-color mode or better monitor.

There is no charge for either the software or the content provided. PointCast makes its money by selling advertising that appears in a box on the upper right corner of the screen. The company also sells the I-Server that allows organizations to create and broadcast channels of their own. For example, a company can create a channel of corporate news and broadcast it with other PointCast channels directly to employee computers on an intranet.

After loading the software, the user selects the desired content--up to nine "channels." Channels are added on a regular basis and currently include news and information from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, CNN, Pathfinder (Time/Warner Publications), TechWeb (CMP Publications), and PR NEWSWIRE. Users can also select up to ten categories of industry news (mostly from press releases). Finally, up to 25 public companies can be monitored for news and stock prices--but with a 20 minute delay.

Customization features of PointCast allow you to select which sections of the New York limes you want to read (World News, Business, Politics, etc.). A simple web browser is included so you can go directly from a news story that mentions a URL to the noted web page without having to open Netscape or another program. Material can be easily saved as a file or printed in ASCII format.

BROADCAST, SCREEN SAVER, OR MANUAL UPDATES

You can receive updated material automatically from the Broadcast Facility, or as a screen saver, or by manually selecting the Update button. …

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