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PointCast sacks third of workforce

Failure of takeover talks blamed

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Troubled push technology provider PointCast has adopted a back to basics plan and fired 75 of its 220-strong workforce following the collapse of negotiations to sell the company to a group of US local telcos. The failure of the takeover talks marks the end of PointCast's attempts to redefine itself as a news and information-centric portal for telecoms companies' Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services. That was former CEO David Dorman's grand plan to save PointCast by finding a home for its resource-intensive software. The software's high network bandwdith requirements are what orginally forced PointCast out of the business of offering domestic and business Internet users an information service, and into the provision of corporate intranet-based news services. But even then customers complained about the drain PointCast's systems placed on their network infrastructures. The company's new approach will centre on a Web-based system. That will require fewer staff than Dorman's R&D-intensive programme, and is in tune with current CEO Phil Koen's plan to slim PointCast right down to cut costs and make the company more attractive to a buyer or venure capitalists. That said, it's hard to see how a Web-based version of the PointCast Network, once more targetting home and business users, can provide anything that the leading portals don't offer already. There might once have been scope for software that would allow users to subscribe to Web pages, a kind of half-way house between the Web's 'pull' approach and PointCast's push technology, but these days that functionality is standard in all the major browsers. And most of the big-name content providers PointCast once signed up now have sites of their own and alliances with other portals. That effectively leaves Koen with one option: to keep the company ticking over long enough to sell either its technology or the business as a whole to an acquisitive buyer like AOL. Such a strategy of desperation may well underly the CEO's current gameplan. ® See also Previous PointCast stories

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