This week, Desktop.com will try a new portal play. The start-up is launching a free "virtual desktop" site - a customizable, Windows-like Web service that will run a variety of applications - that it hopes will turn out to be the stickiest kind of portal.
"We've taken a PC metaphor and shoved it into a Web browser," said Katie Burke, chief executive at Desktop.com. "It's taking the power of the point-and-click, drag-and-drop interface that has been so powerful for users and applying that to the Internet."
Unlike other virtual-desktop sites that typically combine free file storage and e-mail services, Desktop.com actually looks and acts like a Windows desktop. The site uses a special technique to replicate a PC-based application's responsiveness. A piece of code written in Dynamic HyperText Markup Language "smart manages" the data transfer between a user's browser and Desktop.com's site, so there appears to be little or no delay when clicking on buttons or icons. Burke said the DHTML kernel queues up requests and asynchronously communicates with the server.
Desktop.com will sell sponsorships on the default desktop application icons. The company's two charter sponsors are USA Today and AnyDay.com.
San Francisco-based Desktop.com last month announced it had received $29 million in first-round financing from venture capital firms Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital, and from executives at investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.