InfoSpace, POPcast Get the Net Picture

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InfoSpace Inc. is gambling that in the future Internet communications climate, getting the message will involve getting the pictures.

That's why the Internet technology company struck a deal to incorporate POPcast Communications Corp.'s automated video communications software into its broadband platform. Boosted by a recent content deal with Verizon Communications, InfoSpace is shopping that platform to broadband service providers.

Video electronic mail may be a bit Star Trek
for today's Internet, but the goal is to give broadband service providers something catchy to lure in customers. Both broadband connections and recording devices, such as $99 Webcams, have proliferated, and tying the two together with an application seems a logical extension.

"It was InfoSpace going to the market and saying, 'What does the broadband user need?' And more importantly, 'What does the broadband connectivity provider like Verizon and the cable companies need to provide the user in terms of services that will make broadband an attractive option other than it is faster?' " said InfoSpace executive vice president of wireline and broadband York Baur. "We see POPcast as being key apps that are going to get people to understand what is possible with broadband, and more importantly than that, [what] isn't possible in any other way."

The POPcast software trio includes VideoMail, an application that lets users record, play back and send video via e-mail or Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Messenger. Recipients view the clip via a Web address URL, rather than an e-mail attachment.

VideoLive lets users stream video live to PCs or wireless devices to either a single recipient or as a Webcast. And VideoCreate provides the tools users need to mix video, audio and text into their own presentations.

Though such video communications applications may not yet be mainstream, "I do think that particularly the younger factions are becoming more and more attuned to video," Baur said. "As a cultural phenomenon, we are inundated with video everywhere we go, and I think over time it is more and more going to be an expectation that communications include a video element."

Eventually, these tools will lead to two-way, real-time video communications.

"That whole genre we see as a big deal," Baur said. While everyone may think of that as videoconferencing on a corporate level, "what they don't think about is that everybody with a PC essentially has what amounts to a videoconferencing device with these kinds of POPcast-style technologies at their disposal. When you combine that with the broadband availability, the small office/home office market opens up hugely."

Consumers may not be banging down doors yet for such Web tools, but "what we see is the idea of creating video and getting it into your pc is finally becoming a mainstream thing. The logical extension is that I want to put this stuff up so that others can see it."

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