It sounds like a "B" movie plot: Return of the PC Snatchers.
Millions of PC users will find their bandwidth and hard disk space siphoned for mysterious but worthy-sounding scientific projects, just because they downloaded the client for a music and file-swapping program.
The popular Kazaa file-sharing network will reap fees for allowing a partner to piggyback its dormant software on downloads of Kazaa's client. Within weeks, Kazaa users will see the premiere of ads offering Altnet audio and video content for sale. The selection will appear alongside - but distinguishable from - Kazaa content on the Kazaa Media Desktop, says Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of Brilliant Digital Entertainment, parent company of Altnet.
But when Altnet's seeded software is awakened some time in May - the company won't say exactly when - many users may be caught by surprise.
"Consumers have nothing to fear," says Brilliant Digital's Bermeister.
On the chosen day, the slumbering software will be roused the next time the user connects to the Kazaa network, Bermeister said. That activates the controversial software, a program called SecureInstall. Kazaa will prompt the user to upgrade to a new version of the Kazaa Media Desktop. Then, Brilliant Digital's SecureInstall will launch the download of a program to access the Altnet network. During the Kazaa client update, users will be able to opt out of the Altnet service.
In the next phase of Altnet's plan, the possibility of paying for content with bandwidth and CPU cycles comes up. A few weeks after Altnet's launch, Brilliant plans to introduce an Altnet "rewards program," enticing customers to swap PC bandwidth and hard drive space for points that can be redeemed by e-merchant partners, Bermeister says.
The third part of the scheme includes the opportunity to become a participant in the Altnet distributive computing platform. Bermeister says Brilliant Digital will run "distributed computing" applications over the Altnet network, drawing on a PC's processing power when it's idle.
Sharman and Brilliant Digital will share ad revenues from the Altnet venture said Nikki Hemming, chief executive of Sharman Networks.