This article originally appeared in the NY Times.
March 8, 1999, Monday
Compressed Data; Pixel Aims to Exploit Fringes of the Desktop
By STEVE LOHR
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
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
Organizations mentioned in this article:
Pixel Co; Microsoft Corp
Computers and Information Systems; Internet and World Wide Web;