RealTime IT News

AOL Retouches Photo Service

Looking to capitalize on two consumer technology trends -- digital cameras and broadband -- America Online is adding home printing to its online photo service.

The improved "You've Got Pictures" offering uses technology from systems and printer giant HP and comes as the Dulles, Va., ISP tries to slow its sliding subscriber numbers.

Now users can produce prints in various sizes, from wallet to 8X10. In addition, the service warns users when the resolution is too low so they don't waste paper. The free service works with any printer and requires no additional hardware or software.

Previously, members had to open a photo online, save it to their hard drive, then send it to the printer. There was no easy way to adjust print size or quality, AOL spokeswoman Jaymelina Esmele said.

A recent AOL study found that approximately 70 percent of those surveyed use a home printer to print their pictures. The ability to streamline the process has been one of the top requests from users, Esmele said.

For AOL, the Internet arm of media giant Time Warner , the retouched photo service is the latest in a string of efforts to become more useful to its 24 million members so they don't defect to rival ISPs.

Last month it rolled out a new feature that let members download messages via other programs, including those developed by rival Microsoft .

At the same time, it introduced an AOL Toolbar for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. The toolbar gives members access to AOL Search, Yellow Pages, MapQuest, Moviefone, Weather and CityGuide. It also includes a built-in Web pop-up blocker and provides quick access to mail and instant messaging from the browser.

Other new or improved features that have been launched in recent months include online bill payment, Major League Baseball content and tools for organizing recipes and charting the progress of diets.

Financial terms of the agreement with HP, a Palo Alto, Calif., systems vendor with a large printing and imaging equipment division, were not disclosed.