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Liberate plans lucrative new life in set-top box arena

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Isn't the Web wonderful? Go to NCI's Web site today, and you are automagically redirected from nc.com to liberate.com, because NCI has a new name, more backers, and an IPO on the boil. The IPO, provided it can hold onto existing customer commitments and maybe announce a couple more big deals like the AOL one, could be a runner. The old nc.com (Network Computer, oh dear) tag didn't turn out to set the world on fire, but NCI - sorry, Liberate - now has a decent, solid product line that stands a good chance of success in convergent TV/phone/data markets, and although the outfits committed to using its products are currently being besieged by Microsoft's cheque book, success does seem a reasonable possibility. Will the long-suffering original investors stick with it or cash-up? Aside from Netscape (now AOL-owned) and Oracle, Acer, Sega, Nintendo, Sony and NEC backed NCI, but if they were intending to build tens of millions of boxes, they haven't had a lot for their money so far. The new wave this year includes a number of cable and communications related outfits who're more of a fit for the markets Liberate is now challenging in. And then there's Sun, Marubeni and Hambrecht & Quist. So at least some people think the IPO is a goer. ®

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