Portable Screen Makes Trade Show Splash

by Christopher Keough

At last week's 2002 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ViewSonic Corp. of Walnut introduced a prototype of its wireless LCD monitor. And none other than Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates used the hardware in his keynote address.

The flat-panel, wireless, 15-inch monitor has touch-screen capability that allows users to get up from their desktop computer, pop out the screen from its docking station and carry it to another room without having to stop what they're doing. It also makes it possible to launch a streaming-media application in the computer room, and then watch the video while in the kitchen preparing dinner.

The prototype, called AirPanel 150, is scheduled to hit retail shelves in the third quarter, according to Duane Brozek of ViewSonic. Pricing has not been set yet.

Gerry Purdy, chief executive of market research company Mobile Insights Inc. in Mountain View, said he hasn't touched the machine, but knows the product is legit. Purdy said the wireless technology using the 802.11b frequency is making possible all sorts of applications once considered science fiction.

"What you're going to find now is a whole plethora of enhancements that take advantage of connectivity," he said.

Treasure Hunt Complete

Los Angeles-based US Search.com Inc. has secured $3.5 million from Pequot Ventures to continue acquiring other search companies and to expand its sales team.

In exchange for the financing, Pequot Ventures received 8-percent promissory notes and warrants to purchase 1.1 million shares of US Search.com common stock.

US Search.com, founded in 1994, provides software for Internet-based employment screening and background checks, as well as other identity verification and fraud prevention tools for general and corporate consumers.

Pequot Ventures is the venture capital arm of Pequot Capital Management Inc. of Westport, Conn. Pequot Ventures has more than $10 billion under management.

In December, US Search.com completed its acquisition of Professional Resource Screening Inc. of Concord. That deal, which involved 10 million shares of US Search.com stock and additional compensation based on the performance of Resource Screening, amounted to $14 million, according to Rick Heitzmann, senior vice president of corporate development at US Search.com.

Last week, US Search.com's stock, which is listed on Nasdaq under the symbol SRCH, was trading at $1.35 a share.

Heitzmann said the company has its eye on several more companies to acquire, but declined to name them.

Besides funding acquisitions and hiring salespeople, other uses of the new venture money will be arranging partnerships that could involve bundling US Search.com's background-checking capabilities with other employment screening processes, such as drug and psychological testing.

Dot-TV Saga

It's business as usual at dotTV Corp. after its acquisition by VeriSign Inc. of Mountain View.

VeriSign, which already handles registration for the dot-com, dot-org and dot-net extensions, paid $45 million in cash for the dot-tv extension.

DotTV bought the extension from the South Pacific Polynesian nation of Tuvalu, which is located midway between Hawaii and Australia. Marina del Rey-based Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, which allocates the two-letter extensions to independent countries, assigned dot-tv to Tuvalu, which gained independence from Britain in 1978.

The government of Tuvalu, which represents the nation's 11,000 residents, agreed in 2000 to lease its dot-tv extension for 12 years to dotTV Corp., an Idealab company, for close to $50 million in cash, a minority ownership stake in dotTV Corp. and a seat on the company's board.

DotTV became the biggest cyber squatter in the history of the Internet and took advantage of the huge interest in the extension to auction off domain names such as Free.tv, China.tv and Net.tv which each went for around $100,000 while Italia.tv sold for $5,000 and Phillips.tv for $4,000. Overall, more than 250,000 dot-tv domain names have been registered to date.

In the process, Tuvalu has increased its gross domestic product by 50 percent, which has allowed it to enter the United Nations, put doctors in each of its hospitals, set up subsidized Internet access via satellite for its citizens, and provide free high school education.

DotTV now becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of VeriSign and will remain in Westwood, according to current and former employees.

Staff reporter Christopher Keough can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 235, or at ckeough@labusinessjournal.com.

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