Featuring personalized Web interfaces and enriched media content, America Online Inc. is preparing to
roll out AOL 5.0.
New members will begin testing the software and Web interface over the next
few weeks, while AOL plans for a rollout to general members later
Through an innovative welcome screen, AOL 5.0 will provide immediate access
to the service’s most popular features and still allow members to easily
personalize their online experience. In addition to highlighting new
services, AOL will automatically deliver enriched media content
when members connect through broadband cable or digital connections.
Standard channel guides, news, weather, sports and e-mail will continue to
be the mainstay of the AOL interface. However, one new feature is uniquely
designed to conquer common errors encountered when emailing pictures.
Developed in a partnership with Eastman
Kodak, the program is designed to make sharing photos with friends and
family as easy as sending email. The familiar “You’ve Got Mail” voice has
expanded his vocabulary to include the message “You’ve Got Pictures.”
According to Bob Pittman, AOL president and chief operating officer, the
new picture programming enhancements were based on customer feedback and
designed to energize members online experience.
“Once again, we relied heavily on member feedback and suggestions to guide
the development of this product, with several new features evolving as a
result of member input.” Pittman said, “imagine, for example, the
excitement of hearing ‘You’ve Got Pictures!’ and being able to instantly
share photos with friends and family.”
Ease of use and personalized programming play an important part of AOL’s
new interactive experience. Interactive calendars will be
available online through the new software. AOL members will be able to
further personalize their Web interface through the “My Places” feature,
designed to capture a list of web sites they visit most often.
Jonathan Sacks, AOL senior vice president and general manager, said designing an easy-to-use interactive experience meant that the company
would have to find new ways to improve member services.
“We are committed to delivering the easiest and most convenient
Internet experience available. Throughout the development of the
new AOL 5.0, we challenged ourselves to develop a product that met that
goal and will take our members’ interactive experience to the next level.
AOL 5.0 effectively meets this challenge in many ways, ranging from added
personalization to making it easier for members to register for the service
and improving the way they get help from member services.”
One of the
new features provides the means for AOL members with quick triggers on
their delete keys to retrieve e-mail from the mail center for up to 24
hours, without a call for technical support.
Although controversy has surrounded the new search product domain name, AOL
Search is designed to query the entire Internet and AOL’s exclusive
content, without having to leave the AOL service. The latest version of Microsoft Corp.’s Web browser,
Internet Explorer 5.0, will be integrated into the AOL software. The search
coordination offers members seamless access for exploring the Internet.
AOL 5.0 will support all available broadband technologies because members
are beginning to access their service from a wider variety of speeds. When
a member connects to AOL service through broadband access, the new
programming will automatically deliver enriched online content including
streaming audio and video for online shopping and gaming.
Pittman said more AOL members are connecting to their service from
both home and office computers. In addition to dual access to AOL services, many members need portable connections while traveling. He said AOL needed to provide a great online experience, no matter how members connect to AOL.
“What we have found is that the members who access AOL through a broadband connection in one location, whether at work or home, also use narrowband when they are traveling or are in a different location than their broadband connection. So if a member connects to AOL using broadband access, AOL 5.0 will be able to deliver broadband-enriched content and features.”
In order to address AOL access for members with handheld Internet devices, AOL 5.0 will offer email functionality for 3Com Corp.’s Palm Computing. The new
release will also make it easier for members to transfer information from their address books and bookmarks to another computer or handheld devices.