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Businessweek Archives

Hit The Virtual Beach With The Real Marines

Bits & Bytes


GRANTED, NO COMPUTER GAME can come close to real combat. But MAK Technologies Inc. is working on the next best thing: the first war game designed for both commercial and military use.

The Defense Dept. has granted $70,000 to MAK in Cambridge, Mass., to fund the development of a U.S. Marine Corps amphibious-assault simulation for use as a training program--and a consumer game. It's the first Defense grant awarded for a dual-use video game, and follow-on funding of up to $800,000 is likely if the Marines like what they see, says Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hamm, a Marine Corps training and education-technology officer. The Marines don't expect to begin using the game until 1999, but allowing MAK to sell a commercial version "streamlines the process" by speeding up development, Hamm says. MAK plans to introduce the game by the end of 1998 for about $60.

For MAK, the bonus is a product that "is much more realistic than any other game produced for this genre," says Warren Katz, MAK's chief operating officer. The parties are still negotiating over who will get the profits. But Hamm says that even if the Marines wind up with some royalties, "most of the profit goes to the commercial vendor."EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST Paul C. JudgeReturn to top


SINCE COMPUSERVE INC.'S founding in 1969, the first online service has had a reputation for offering oodles of content. But that content has often been hidden in a maze that has left customers befuddled, lost, and ultimately unhappy. To make life easier for its estimated 2.5 million subscribers, CompuServe has reorganized its content into 21 "communities" under headings such as investing, health, education, and sports. The move could bring coherence to CompuServe's 3,000 content areas and 1,000 discussion groups. Ultimately, the communities should make it easier for subscribers to find an area of interest, tap in, and soak up the material or chat.

But is it a case of too little, too late? H&R Block Inc., which owns 80% of the service, has already discussed selling CompuServe to America Online Inc., its far-larger rival--AOL has 7 million subscribers. Without identifying a potential buyer, a CompuServe spokesman confirmed that the talks "are continuing." That probably means that communities may ease the way for subscribers but that they won't be sufficient to keep CompuServe independent. EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST Peter ElstromReturn to top


CORPORATIONS WITH FAR-flung offices face major hassles setting up a companywide broadcast. There's the expensive satellite time and the inconvenience to employees who have to schlepp to the cafeteria to get the word over closed-circuit TVs.

As an alternative, ICAST Corp. in Los Gatos, Calif., hopes corporations will use its Company Channel, which lets employees tune in to the speech at their desks. The product, due in June, transmits presentations in real time over the Internet to PCs without clogging the corporate network. The expected price: $39.95 for the server software and $19 to $69 per desktop, depending on the number of users.

The new twist is "multi-casting" technology, says ICAST founder Vinay Kumar. While Net conferencing programs from VXtreme and VDONet send a separate bandwidth-hogging video stream to each desktop, ICAST sends just one copy. A special tagging scheme lets the network know which PCs want to tune in. EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST Peter BurrowsReturn to top

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