Microsoft making news

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled technology designed to make the Internet rival TV news, giving personal-computer users a wealth of news and information channels for Web surfers.

Daily Variety will be among the primary channels offered via “push,” the new software that will provide multiple channels of constantly updated and customized data from various content-providers. Rather than manually searching Websites for info, users will be able to have it delivered automatically to a personal desktop.

The move comes as part of the ongoing war between Bill Gates’ Microsoft and upstart Netscape to capture Internet users. Netscape has captured about 70% of Web users with its Web-browser, the software that allows computer users to surf the Internet’s World Wide Web for data.

As part of its new deal to streamline the delivery of info, Microsoft has reached strategic agreements with a number of content-providers, including Dow Jones, Dun & Bradstreet, Forbes, Fortune and Reed Elsevier, Daily Variety’s parent company.

“The relationship with Microsoft enables us to distribute our content in a far more timely fashion so that our readers can make quicker and better- informed decisions,” said Mark Lieberman, executive vice president of the Cahners division that includes not only Daily Variety but also Publishers Weekly, Bookwire and Broadcasting & Cable.

Microsoft will adopt a standardized push technology that will create channels for the pacted companies on its new Internet Explorer 4.0 Web-browser. The updated browser is expected to be launched this summer with specialized services for corporate clients.

The agreement between the content-providers and Microsoft is not exclusive. At least some of the strategic partners in the Microsoft alliance said their Websites also would support Netscape.

The cyber term for the push technology is Webcasting. “Webcasting allows people to find the information they want more easily,” said Brad Chase, Microsoft VP, Internet client group.

A similar push technology is likely to be offered on Netscape’s new Netcast browser as well. “Microsoft is trying to cut Netscape off at the pass,” Dataquest analyst Allen Weiner commented. “This is a positioning statement.”

Some cyber analysts view push technology as a threat to the Web as it currently is configured. As a way to attract advertisers, many Internet businesses now measure the number of times a Net surfer visits a particular site and the nature of interaction that occurs. Under the new technology, a computer user can grab info from sites while ignoring advertising or interactive experiences such as ordering merchandise from catalogs.

Microsoft execs said they are examining ways to deal with that problem. Some content providers also are expected to use the Microsoft browser to offer teasers, such as headlines or story abstracts that invite users to visit home Web sites for more in-depth information.

A key component of the new IE4 browser, Microsoft execs said, is the ability to facilitate subscriptions to Web sites that charge for usage. The browser automatically will punch in personal passwords in order to access subscription sites and download new information hourly or daily.

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