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Cybernews Alerts Beamed By Radio

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THANKS TO THE INTERNET, personal computers let people keep up with news, information, and E-mail from around the world. Problem is, bringing in all that stuff requires a lot of time and ties up phone lines. Global Village Communication Inc., a Sunnyvale (Calif.) supplier of communication gear for PCs, thinks it has a solution.

Its $149 NewsCatcher is designed to keep Net and info junkies abreast of what's happening with the help of a wireless radio network. The package, which works with any IBM-compatible PC, includes software and a pyramid-shaped receiver that uses a paging frequency and attaches to the computer. After signing up for service with AirMedia, a wireless data service run by New York-based Ex Machina Inc., subscribers fill out a profile indicating their interests: news, horoscopes, sports, etc. AirMedia editors then scour the Net looking for that information and blast alerts and summaries via the wireless network.

The pyramid picks up those alerts, displays them on the PC's monitor, and points members to where they need to go on the Net to get the full story. NewsCatcher can even be set up to alert owners when a new piece of E-mail arrives on their various online-service accounts.

After a one-year free trial of AirMedia, Newscatcher subscribers can expect to pay $5.95 to $9.95 per month for the service, depending on how many features they sign up for.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top

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CAN JAVA, SUN MICROSYSTEMS Inc.'s language for creating Internet programs, be the key to opening the World Wide Web to the masses? Currently, people seeking information, pictures, or video and audio clips must go out and browse for them--and then, to view the material, they often have to download and install special "plug-in" programs. Marimba, a highly secretive Palo Alto (Calif.) company started by four original members of Sun's Java team, hopes to change all that. On Oct. 8, it announced a set of Java-based technologies called Castanet that will make it a snap to receive and update software and multimedia material via the Web.

Castanet extends an idea first espoused by PointCast Inc., which makes a program that sends customized news to personal-computer screens. Castanet "transmitter" software--which costs software and content developers $995 to $15,000 depending on the size of their audience--sends the programs and content over the Internet or via corporate intranets. PC owners use Marimba's free "tuner" software to receive the material, which then runs automatically, with no installation hassles. Some observers say Marimba's software could change the industry's economics by making program upgrades as automatic as a magazine subscription.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By Rob HofReturn to top


PUBLISHED IN 47 EDITIONS and read by 100 million people, Reader's Digest is the world's most popular magazine. On Oct. 28, Reader's Digest Assn., the publisher and direct-marketing giant, plans to launch LookSmart, a directory service on the World Wide Web that it hopes will become just as popular.

Reader's Digest is counting on its marketing savvy and some technical innovations for success. Its partner, an Australian startup called LookSmart Ltd., has developed a graphical interface that dispenses with long lists of Web-site addresses. Instead, viewers will click their way through a horizontal hierarchy of subject categories that branch out to--initially-- some 85,000 preselected Web sites. Plus, viewers will peruse those sites through the LookSmart interface's central window, which means Reader's Digest can guarantee advertisers that their LookSmart ads will be visible for more than a few seconds.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By John VerityReturn to top

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