Omnipod brands Web desktops for clients

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New York-based software company Omnipod officially launched last month and has already signed Levi Strauss & Co. and Mars Inc.'s M&M mars as clients.

In addition, the week of Oct. 16, the company also is involved in the relaunch of the CMJ Network. CMJ, which publishes several magazines, including CMJ New Music Report, will offer Omnipod's Web-based applications called Personal Online Desktop that musicians can use to more easily swap files and send instant messages to each other. Omnipod is also creating a POD for Artisan's "The Blair Witch Legend."

Even with several projects in the works, Omnipod faces an uphill battle. The company plans to sell limited advertising on its PODs, making the bulk of its revenue selling customized PODs to marketers as well as companies that want applications built into their intranets.

Co-CEO John Oppenheimer, who declined to say how much Omnipod charged Levi Strauss, said it will also upsell certain soon-to-be released services,such as video conferencing and IP Telephony, to users for a small fee.

Omnipod was founded on the belief that portals and standard Internet browsers weren't doing enough to address the needs of Internet users, said Mr. Oppenheimer, who founded the company with Co-CEO Gideon Stein, and Chief Strategy Officer Bernie Kluger. He added that Omnipod is meant to complement Web browsers, not replace them.

Omnipod, which is optimized for high-speed Web connections, targets the college market, the vast majority of whom use such connections.

Users can download one of various PODs, which can be branded by marketers such as Levi or M&M Mars, for which Omnipod created a POD to promote Skittles candy. Once the software is downloaded, users can begin sharing files with friends, storing documents, instant messaging, e-mailing, scheduling appointments and streaming audio and video clips. Because files are stored for free on the POD--which is on Omnipod's Web server--it doesn't use the peer-to-peer file swapping technique Napster and other Internet groups employ. The company said that so far, almost 15,000 people have downloaded and registered its software.

Having online applications "is where computing is going," Mr. Oppenheimer said. "It's going to empower more people."

Omnipod has a $500,000 public relations and marketing campaign slotted for later this month from marketing group guerillaPR, Los Angeles, and MarketPlace Media a division of College Television Network, which has a minority stake in Omnipod.

Sloan Group, New York, created a teaser spot on a project basis that ran in the spring on CTN, a closed circuit TV network that runs TV content on college campuses. This week Omnipod and CTN will begin distributing 140,000 promotional CDs on college campuses containing links to Omnipod's site (

Still, the idea of storing content online is hardly new, and Omnipod will have to lure users away from established portals--such as Excite@Home and Yahoo!--that offer similar services.

Copyright October 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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