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original article appeared in Wired at http://www.wired.com/news/news/technology/story/16617.html

Give Me MySpace
by Chris Oakes

3:00 a.m.  4.Dec.98.PST
Follow your PC screen's desktop image: down past the browser window, beyond the familiar task bar, and into the glassy darkness below. There, where the Windows desktop ends, is exactly where The Pixel Company's business plan begins.

With its Windows-independent software, called MySpace, the Seattle company wants to let PC manufacturers stake out screen space of their own -- Microsoft be damned.

"Most [PC manufacturers] are very interested in having a piece of real estate that they can use to send their users a message and communicate with them," said CEO Tom O'Rourke. "That's what [MySpace] is designed to do."

After shipping a trial version to PC vendors in June, The Pixel Company this week made the software available to the public with free downloads from its Web site.

"The plastic that holds the screen is a piece of real estate," O'Rourke said. "If you could provide access to AOL there, [for example], AOL would be very happy. That's, in effect, what we're doing. We're creating a virtual hardware frame for Windows."

MySpace appears as a rotating cylinder at the bottom of the computer that is always visible to the user. By clicking on buttons and rotating the cylinder, users can link to Web sites, view scrolling tickers, and open applications.

It resides in a space the size of the Windows task bar called the overscan area. MySpace works independently of the operating system by working directly with a monitor's video driver.

The company's business will rely mainly on adoption of MySpace by PC manufacturers who would use the utility to beckon users, communicate with them, and draw them to their Web sites in much the same way Microsoft and its Windows operating system do now.

As with Internet banner ads, The Pixel Company would receive royalties when users click on a vendor's MySpace button. Placement on MySpace by content providers would provide secondary revenues.

The software comes with nine pre-loaded directories -- including finance, news, sports, and entertainment -- and features Internet content companies such as Amazon.com, eBay, GoTo.com, Merriam-Webster, and Nasdaq-Amex.com.

The appeal of the software was more obvious before the US Justice Department's antitrust suit against Microsoft, said Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle. Once the case is resolved, he said it may be easier for other companies to achieve placement on the Windows desktop, and that could undercut MySpace.

"[Vendors] have a lot more flexibility with what they can do with the initial Windows screen than they had in the past. So, they'll be looking at [MySpace] to provide some level of differentiation," Enderle said.

PC vendor Packard Bell NEC, The Pixel Company's former corporate parent, is the only vendor officially planning to distribute and use MySpace on its PCs. But O'Rourke said The Pixel Company expects to have two more PC vendors signed by the end of the first quarter of 1999.

All of the top manufacturers have shown interest in MySpace, according to O'Rourke. But Enderle said computer makers were unlikely to seriously begin evaluating the software for another year.

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