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Goodbye, Hal!

1:20 PM -- I get the sense that WorldGate Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WGAT) just won't be the same now that its colorful leader, Hal Krisbergh, is leaving after 14 years at the helm at the ITV software developer-turned-videophone company.

Of course, time will tell if that actually turns out to be a good thing, but it's clear that WorldGate is ready to move on after announcing a spate of top-level changes, including the fact that Krisbergh resigned as CEO and relinquished his spot on the WorldGate board. As part of a big board reset, WorldGate, maker of the "Ojo" videophone, is now in the process of hiring a new CEO, and bringing in a fresh sales and marketing leader, and, more generally, positioning itself "for the next generation of video telephony," whatever that means. (See WorldGate CEO Resigns .)

These latest personnel moves come soon after WGI Investor LLC obtained controlling interest in WorldGate. Tied into all this, ACN Inc., a direct seller of telecom gear and services with corporate ownership ties to WGI Investor, committed to buy as many as 300,000 videophones from WorldGate over a two-year period and provide WorldGate with $1.2 million to fund "associated software development costs." So, it's all staying in the family, so to speak. (See WorldGate Seals Deal.)

And thus ends the latest chapter in WorldGate's topsy-turvy history. Unless it ends up selling a bunch of Ojos to cable MSOs (an unlikely occurrence), this might be the last time we speak of the Trevose, Pa.-based company here.

But there was a time when WorldGate was very much part of the cable technology discussion. Before entering the videophone biz in 2003, WorldGate was involved in the cable industry's budding interest in interactive television, centering on a system that delivered apps to "thin-client" set-tops with limited processing horsepower. It was later tied to TVGateway LLC, an interactive program guide (IPG) consortium formed in 2000 with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , and what was then still known as Adelphia Communications. WorldGate sold its iTV assets to TVGateway in October 2003 for $2.5 million and applied the proceeds toward the Ojo videophone project.

WorldGate's videophone strategy got a shot in the arm in May 2004, when Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) signed on as the exclusive distribution and marketing partner for the Ojo. And that deal no doubt was aided by the fact that Krisbergh knew the Moto folks fairly well. Before the WorldGate gig, he spent about 13 years as an exec at General Instrument, which Motorola acquired in 2000 in a deal valued at $17 billion.

But despite those personal ties and a bunch of splashy demos at the Moto booth at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show, that partnership didn't last. Motorola and WorldGate scuttled the deal in April 2006, leaving WorldGate to once again pursue its video strategy on its own.

And the road alone wasn't exactly smooth, either. WorldGate almost had to shut its doors for good in early 2008 when it ran into a payment dispute with Snap!VRS, WorldGate's largest customer at the time. (See WorldGate Winding Down .)

So we bid farewell to Hal as he leaves the hallowed halls of WorldGate. But maybe we shouldn't be surprised if we hear from him again now that interactive television is once again a hot topic in the cable industry and there's a host of startups out there again that hope to help MSOs deliver the goods… for real this time. (See Cable Cuts Path to Interactivity , The Cable Show '09: 5 Takeaways , and Canoe Rows Toward Enhanced TV .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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