Thursday, July 31, 2003 - Personal Technology: AOL Returns to Top - Personal Technology: AOL Returns to Top "These are tough times for America Online. Its dial-up subscribers are deserting in droves for cheaper competitors or speedier broadband Internet access from cable and phone companies. The government is investigating it for a variety of alleged accounting misdeeds. And after years of neglect, it was overtaken in quality last fall by Microsoft's rival MSN online service, at least in my view.
But there's a positive trend hiding behind this gloomy picture. Inside the service's Virginia headquarters, AOL's software designers seem to have snapped out of the coma they were in during the years when their bosses were focused on swallowing media giant Time Warner. The place is bubbling with ideas again, and some key executives from the old glory days are back and leading the charge.
The result is AOL 9.0 for Windows, the most sweeping upgrade to the AOL software and service in years. This new version of AOL, being released Friday, isn't a dramatic breakthrough. Many of its best features are long overdue and represent a catch-up effort. But it puts AOL on a par with MSN in most key areas, and pushes ahead in a few others. On balance, it gives AOL a slight lead again.
Friday's release is for broadband subscribers using Windows XP or Windows 2000. Dial-up subscribers, and those with earlier Windows versions, will get AOL 9.0 next week. Macintosh subscribers won't get a new version until next year."

Nice of Walt Mossberg to take the long view on AOL, especially since it'll be 2004 before the majority of AOL users (non Windows 2000/XP) will benefit...

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