The Pixel Co. Lands on Windows Turf

The Pixel Co. (Seattle,, a small start-up right across the river from Redmond, has laid claim to what thus far had appeared to be Microsoft’s turf.

Pixel’s corporate product, due early next year, is a control bar called Work Space that actually resides on a monitor’s screen. Microsoft’s operating systems consume all the territory on a PC’s screen except a small unused space, called the overscan, a strip measuring 1/4 to 1/2 inch along the borders of the screen. This no-man’s land is left blank to ensure that if the monitor is rattled en route to a customer, none of the display will be obscured. Customers can configure Windows so that the entire screen is covered, or, as will be the case for Work Space, the overscan can simply be left where it is.

Work Space will reside in the overscan along the bottom of a screen, immediately beneath the Windows 95 taskbar. Within Work Space, users can link to a site on the Internet, control hardware such as a CD or DVD player, or start software applications.

Although Work Space will fit right under the Windows screen, the two need not be used in tandem. "The advantage of Work Space is mostly for those applications that need to run without Windows," says Rob Enderle, senior analyst, Giga Information Group (Santa Clara, Calif.). For instance, the more raw processing power videoconferencing applications can summon from the CPU, the more smoothly they will run. With Work Space, users can opt to run just an application, without also having to run Windows. "We wrote directly to the chips," explains Tom O’Rourke, president, Pixel.

Work Space will also enable companies to send out enterprisewide messages. "The difference between Work Space and e-mail is that Work Space is always on; it can’t be turned off, so the message will reach even the users not running e-mail," says O’Rourke.

Additionally, Work Space will enable the use of ticker bars and other Push technology, so applications can be pushed through an intranet and out to all employees. "Work Space can be a tie between upper-level management and the employee workforce," says O’Rourke.

Both Work Space and My Space, the consumer version, are designed to work regardless of the platform.

At first, it may appear that Pixel is playing David and taking on the computer industry’s Goliath. But O’Rourke says that is not the case: "Microsoft’s reaction has been very good; I was pleased. They’ve even mentioned us a couple times to the DOJ, as an example of companies that are innovating around Windows."

Giga’s Enderle points out that timing is everything. "This is good timing for Pixel because Microsoft probably couldn’t do anything even if they wanted to because of the DOJ case," he says.

But Pixel’s products don’t mean they own the overscan area either. "Anything could go there. It could be Java OS, it could be Linux, it could be a corporate intranet or database," says O’Rourke. "That stuff isn’t going to happen now, but because of the kernels that run Work Space, [having] other applications residing in the overscan is definitely feasible."