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This article originally appeared in the NY Times.

March 8, 1999, Monday
Business/Financial Desk

Compressed Data; Pixel Aims to Exploit Fringes of the Desktop


In its antitrust trial, the Microsoft Corporation has repeatedly said that it has granted personal computer makers greater freedom to do as they please with the Windows desktop screen, which pops into view when a machine is turned on.

One of Microsoft's old adversaries, Robert Steinberg, an intellectual property lawyer, has noticed the same thing -- and sees a business opportunity. ''There is some loosening up and, frankly,'' he said, ''that is one of the reasons I'm coming in.''

Today, Mr. Steinberg will become the chief executive of the Pixel Company, a Seattle start-up. Its business plan is to exploit some of the valuable real estate on computer desktops that Pixel insists is technically and legally beyond Microsoft's reach.

Pixel's software grabs a slender band of unused screen space, called the overscan area, about one-quarter to one-half inch along each edge of the screen. Its first product is a control bar, called My Space, that sits on the bottom edge of the screen, just below the Windows 98 task bar. By clicking on a My Space icon, a user can be linked to a site on the World Wide Web.

Packard Bell NEC, a large PC maker, has installed My Space on its new consumer machines, which will begin arriving in stores in a couple of weeks. Pixel's next product is a more robust software engine -- an as-yet unnamed control bar that will reside along the right-hand side of the screen. Available later this year, the new software will be able to start other programs, like browsers and spreadsheets. Mr. Steinberg hopes it will be attractive to the large all-in-one portal sites, like Yahoo, that are fighting for placement and attention on the desktop.

Mr. Steinberg, a partner at Irell & Manella in Los Angeles, wrote the patent for the data-compression technology that became the center of a legal dispute between Microsoft and Stac Electronics Inc., which Mr. Steinberg represented. In 1994, a jury ordered Microsoft to pay Stac $120 million for patent infringement, though Microsoft later settled the case for an estimated $50 million and took a 15 percent stake in Stac. STEVE LOHR

Organizations mentioned in this article:
Pixel Co; Microsoft Corp

Related Terms:
Computers and Information Systems; Internet and World Wide Web; Computer Software

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