Paul Allen's Internet bet

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For Paul Allen, the reclusive billionaire techno-genius, the Internet is leading the way to the ``wired world,'' a future where computers provide everyone immediate access to unlimited information and resources.

``Today, the first steps have started with the Internet,'' the co-founder of Microsoft Corp. said in a rare public appearance as keynote speaker for the Aysmetrix World Developers Conference in Bellevue, Wash., on Wednesday. ``Any consumer organization will be driven to have information available in this format very shortly, I would think.''

He said Starwave Corp., his Bellevue, Wash.-based developer of content for online services, is helping pioneer methods for profiting from the Internet by offering a ``front porch'' of free content which is supported by advertising and charging subscriptions for premium services.

``Early data indicates this approach is working well,'' Mr. Allen said.Mr. Allen also hopes to profit from the Internet by selling tickets and merchandise from his company Ticketmaster Corp. He predicted Starwave will provide interactive ticket purchasing by the end of the year.

Mr. Allen also said he is looking to his investment in the new DreamWorks SKG studio as another way to capitalize on the blossoming of the wired world. He said the studio has plans to produce many interactive products, in addition to its core of movies.

Mr. Allen, however, expects to wait some time for his investments in the digital future to reach fruition.

``It's going to be a longer process than any of us thought initially,'' he said.

Cable modems and ISDN will provide midterm solutions over the next five years until more advanced data communications infrastructures are in place, he said.

``You need to try to get ahead, and if you're right ... you'll have some very large opportunities,'' he said.

--By Charles Waltner

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