Juno Gets Ready For the Future

It appears Juno Online Services Inc. has a crystal ball and is looking into a future that doesn’t have as many PCs as it used to, if two announcements Tuesday are any indication.

Juno, the nation’s third-largest Internet service provider with 14.2 million registered users, Tuesday rolled out a new version of its service that includes a Web browser, among other things, and a contract agreement with Into Networks for software-on-demand.

The two announcements are significant because they both signal a departure on the reliance of the home computer, be it an Apple Mac or PC, for Internet service, paving the way for new technologies like set-top boxes.

Juno version 5.0 has a raft of nifty new features and services, but none more significant than its integrated toolbar, which includes a Web browser, search engine and an email application that includes filtering and offline reading.

If it sounds familiar, you’re correct. The toolbar is similar to the latest Netscape browser by AOL Time Warner Inc. Juno’s product includes many of the same features but uses the Microsoft Internet Explorer platform.

Charles Ardai, Juno president and chief executive officer, said the new version 5.0 was designed for the inexperienced Internet surfer.

“Juno 5.0 is designed not only to meet the needs of the millions of people who already use Juno, but also the millions more who have yet to take their first step onto the Internet, not to mention all the people who use a different Internet service and aren’t satisfied with it,” Ardai said. “We are very pleased with the new version and know from early feedback that our users really like it as well.”

Giving broadband Internet users access to software-on-demand is another service offered by Juno that is sure to change the necessity of Internet use on the PC, since the only thing separating a set-top box and the PC, generally speaking, is the PC’s ability to store information (i.e., applications).

Into Networks, an application service provider put together by executives from companies like AT&T Corp., NBC Inc., Morgan Stanley, Time Warner Inc. (now AOL Time Warner Inc.), and Microsoft Corp., caters to broadband customers looking for ways to take advantage of the speed they now have at their fingertips.

With streaming applications available for daily rental, Juno customers will be able to “rent” applications like Lotus Notes, Hasbro Interactive, Disney Interactive and Eidos. Sorry, no Microsoft Office.

Streaming applications play into the hands of companies like those mentioned above. AOL, with its set-top appliance AOL TV, and AT&T with its upcoming counterpart, are sure to include Into Network’s offerings.

Gary Baker, Juno spokesperson, said Tuesday’s announcements are more about providing an integrated service for newcomers and giving broadband users something to do than a conscious choice of abandoning the PC down the road.

“I’d put Into (Networks) in the same category as building up our infrastructure,” Baker said. “In the future, we plan on having more than 2,000 broadband customers and we want them to have content that can take advantage of that service. Broadband users are saying, ‘I want music on demand, video on demand, software on demand.’ The idea of taking an ASP approach and taking traditional software and renting out these services is such a great idea.

“As far as our new version 5.0, that’s not significant news to anyone but our current Juno customers and those just starting to use the Internet,” Baker continued. “The integrated Web browser is significant because it keeps them in the Juno environment the entire time, whether they’re surfing on the Web or reading their email, rather than a pop up window taking them away from us. It’s still the standard Microsoft Internet Explorer, just modified for Juno.”

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