AOL Brightens Up Its Desktop
A new version of AOL Desktop bundles tabbed browsing, multiple email account management, and an “App Map” of all open application windows within the environment.
The all in one software package called AOL Desktop claimed it organizes one’s online life. Several useful features aimed toward that goal help the individual on Windows XP or Vista do that.
For those who remember the days when Microsoft feared the Netscape browser would render the desktop a utility of minimal importance, desktop applications like AOL’s hint at what that future would have looked like. Except, of course, that AOL Desktop runs on Windows, so Microsoft’s place on the hardware remains safe.
The App Map reminds us of the Speed Dial feature in the Opera browser. Instead of little pictures of websites, App Map shows thumbnails of the open browser, IM, and email windows currently running.
AIM has been integrated into the desktop, opening with a click of a button in the toolbar. Email and web browsing open the same way.
But the version of AIM in the AOL Desktop isn’t the goodie-filled one I have running as a separate applications. Where’s the status message feature?
In email, AOL’s MapQuest service provides a quick way to place a map or directions into a message. MapQuest has been a high quality service for some time, making its inclusion a welcome one.
AOL Desktop users can access other POP3 email accounts by adding their information to the Mail Settings. Services like Gmail, Verizon, and Comcast offer POP3 access, as do many ISPs.
Installation of AOL Desktop makes Internet Explorer the default browser, and sets AOL Search as the default search engine. As our readers know, search drives advertising, and ads drive revenue.
For web browsing with AOL Desktop, a caching feature called TopSpeed can be enabled to use with AOL Explorer. This web acceleration technology requires the user to login to AOL with a valid screen name.
AOL Desktop’s toolbar has quick links to the multitude of content areas the web services provider freed up after switching from its subscription walled garden to the more open Internet audience-supported model.
Running AOL Desktop, in a way, felt like a return to that model circa 1994, albeit with much prettier graphics and improved features. The software offers an easy all-in-one way to manage one’s experience online, placing the essentials of web, email, and IM in one place.
It’s going to take some work to break people of their ingrained habits of firing up separate applications to do these tasks. That would be AOL’s real accomplishment with Desktop.