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Marimba in cahoots with SunSoft? Multicast software may be embedded in Java NCs

Marimba also targeting ISPs with future server technology

February  1997
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London -- Marimba Inc., one of the rising stars of Internet multicast technology, started shipping the production versions of its much-anticipated Castanet and Bongo products during the last week of January and is currently talking to SunSoft about embedding its software in the company's Java-based network computer, according to company sources.

Marimba is also working on several new technologies designed for the widespread distribution of information on the Internet. These include an HTTP proxy server and a repeater server, according to Arthur van Hoff, chief technology officer at the Palo Alto, CA-based startup.

While the company hopes to receive immediate revenue for its first products, it is busily eyeing new markets and new opportunities.

"We are talking to a number of network computer vendors about embedding our client software on their desktop," said van Hoff. "For network computers, it would be more suitable to have icons that represent channels rather than applications. These channels could include applications and data."

According to van Hoff, Sun Microsystems would be an obvious partner for Marimba. "There is a good possibility that we will end up working with a company that does a Java-based NC, and we obviously have a good relationship with Sun."

While the company's Castanet and Bongo software have been available free in beta for some time, Marimba now feels that it is time to earn some revenue for its efforts.

"We will start to make sales from Monday [January 27]," said van Hoff. "There has been enormous demand for our products. But we will probably have a wider launch in [February]."

The company will be selling its Bongo application development tool for $495, while the low-end version of its Castanet transmitter software will cost $995. "Castanet Tuner software will be free," said van Hoff. "And prices for our high-end Castanet transmitter software will be subject to configuration."


What industry watchers think
Analysts are optimistic that Marimba will be able to make the transition to selling its software but not without some pain.

"We believe that the market is going to shake out to two main multicast vendors, probably Marimba and PointCast," said Mike Kennedy, vice president of the Meta Group's Advanced Information Management Strategy division in Burlingame, Calif. "Those vendors that manage to gain the support of Netscape and Microsoft will be the survivors."

According to van Hoff, however, Internet multicasting is only a starting point for Marimba.

"We are currently in negotiations with Internet service providers around the world to provide transmitter space on their servers," van Hoff said.

This would enable a customer such as HotWired to hire out transmitter space from an ISP in Europe who has installed Marimba's repeater server software; users from Europe who receive data from HotWired would automatically be connected with the European repeater site.

The HTTP proxy server will be designed to provide a similar service in corporations. "For instance if 100 people in an organization are getting a CNN feed then you don't want an advertisement embedded on the CNN page to choke up the company's firewall," said van Hoff.

"Bandwidth is expensive and so some companies are beginning to stop users from receiving multicast services because if you have 100 people in an organization all on, say, PointCast then that adds up to an awful lot of bandwidth," said Kermit Patton, Internet program manager at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif. "The multicast vendors are responding to this by providing corporations with software that sits on a corporate server and only distributes new information."

Meanwhile, according to published reports the company is also in discussions with Microsoft Corp. about embedding its Castanet Turner in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0. Van Hoff would not comment on the matter.

Analysts believe that Marimba would have to support Microsoft's Active X application programming interface (API) as well as Java to deal with Microsoft.

"I can't see that would be a significant advantage to Microsoft to deal with Marimba unless they gain widespread market support, and it's too early to tell if that is going to happen," said Kennedy. "Microsoft already has an agreement with PointCast which to my mind would exclude Marimba, at least for the moment."

--Niall McKay

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