Kim Polese Programs the Future

Kim Polese offers Fast Company her vision of where push technology is pulling the Net.

Kim Polese, 35, is the hottest Web celeb since Netscape poster boy Marc Andreessen. Polese first made a name for herself at Sun Microsystems, where she was product manager for the much-celebrated Java programming language. In February 1996, she and three top Java engineers left Sun to create their own company, Marimba, Inc. The startup attracted headlines, hype, and $4 million of venture capital from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Now Marimba has a product, Castanet, that aims to redefine how content providers distribute information over the Web. Companies such as MGM, Disney, and FedEx are using Castanet to create channels that automatically "push" content to people rather than requiring them to "pull" content from Web sites. Users download a Castanet Tuner from Marimba http://www.marimba.com that enables them to receive the channels.

Polese offered Fast Company her vision of where push technology is pulling the Net.

Television is the new model for the Web. Why should people be happy about that?

Because your PC is going to look like a real consumer device. You'll push a button and it will just work. You won't see messages like "404 not found" or "FTP this plug-in." That will disappear.

Your desktop will look different too. It will look more like a TV in the sense that you'll see lots of logos: MGM, Disney, FedEx. You'll click on, say, the MGM channel and it will instantly launch a game, an online soap opera, an animated cartoon. And you won't have to wait to download. Personalized content will be automatically pushed to your computer.

How else will it change the user experience?

You'll never have to install software again. Sure you might subscribe to the Sesame Street channel. But you might also subscribe to a word-processing channel from Microsoft. You pay a maintenance fee and the channel receives regular upgrades of Microsoft Word. No more running to the store for the latest version.

Beyond the user experience, what's the biggest change associated with the push model?

Brands become really important. The ability of content providers to put their logos on your desktop is just such a huge thing.

In the old model, the Web offered thousands of sites and people got lost navigating around cyberspace. In the new model, people will make a limited number of choices: "I am going to subscribe to 10 or 20 channels; they'll be the ones on my hard disk."

Obviously big-name channels like Disney are going to attract lots of people. But there are still opportunities for new brands. Today, because download times are so terrible, most Web sites look the same. With push technology, applications can be megabytes in size and therefore highly differentiated. New companies will be able to create dazzling multimedia experiences and make a name for themselves that way. The buzz will still travel.

What do people still not understand about the push model?

That it's about much more than getting scores and headlines, or even upgrading software. Castanet allows full-blown applications to be pushed as well. Chrysler is using our technology to build kiosks in dealer showrooms so customers will know whether the model they want will be available tomorrow, in a week, or in a month. Instead of expecting people to "click" and wait for that information, Chrysler will automatically push it out to the kiosks. It's a real customer-connectivity application, and it's part of this model.

Coordinates: Kim Polese, polese@marimba.com

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