Desktop.com Debuts Personal, Portable Web Portal

SAN FRANCISCO (03/09/2000) - Desktop.com finally jumped out of its long beta period to launch this week, as a combination Web-based application provider and portal.

Desktop.com, in beta since last fall, is a free service that offers a "personal, portable Web space" for consumers. It is accessible from any PC hooked up to the Internet.

You can store up to 10MB of files on the Web site, as well as bookmarks and passwords to other Web sites. Through Desktop.com, you can check your POP3 or Web-based e-mail accounts. At the same time, Desktop.com also gives you access to its own applications and services.

"We allow you to aggregate all the sites and services you use on the Web," says Jon Phillips, Desktop.com vice president of marketing.

Aimed at consumers, Desktop.com has a strong recreational feel. The site offers some business productivity tools, but the applications are more geared toward leisure. For example, one application tracks your workouts. Another helps you create an online recipe file or photo album. With another, you can generate surveys and conduct polls.

"We're geared toward your whole life," explains Phillips. "You can weave in elements from your work life, and your home life and hobbies."

The applications include business tools, such as one that helps you build a contact database and store your files online. Desktop.com plans to add more such tools: With its launch, Desktop released its application programming interface so developers anywhere can create applications that run in the Desktop.com environment, and add them to the application library.

Building My Own Desktop

Signing up for Desktop.com is quick and painless: You simply choose a username and password, and type in your e-mail address. Then download an ActiveX plug-in about 50KB in size, and see your personal Webtop.

It looks very much like a typical portal, and is filled to the brim. You'll find lists of Desktop applications and featured Web services. You can tailor the "My Shortcuts" list and jump to your stored bookmarks and files or applications.

I tested the e-mail application called AllMail. When I clicked on it, a smaller browser window popped up inside my Webtop. All Desktop.com applications are viewed the same way--a minor annoyance because the new windows always appeared half off of my screen and I constantly had to reposition them.

To check other e-mail accounts, you select the type (it must be Yahoo, Hotmail, America Online, Mail.com, Net@ddress, or a POP3 account; others are not yet supported), and enter your username and password. AllMail lets you see the sender name and subject line of new messages, but you can't read the text unless you go the mail provider's Web site. You can browse to the site within Desktop.com, but that means using one of the smaller browser windows to read your messages.

I also tested Trainer, the application that keeps track of your workouts. You note your preferred exercise, favorite routes, and distance and length of your workouts. Trainer will calculate your pace and help you create progress charts.

Fun, but not necessarily highly productive--which is basically the gist of Desktop.com.

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