America Online (AOL) chief executive Steve Case admits that the service provider receives one million support and complaint calls every week - one for every 10 AOL members.
Case appealed for the industry to make the Internet available to the mass market in a keynote speech at the Internet World show in New York yesterday, but also admitted companies have had many problems making Internet access simple and reliable enough for consumers.
"We carry 160 million emails every day and have 10 million customers," Case said. "But we want more... mass market consumers don't care about new technology - they just want it to work."
Later in his speech, Case said AOL's one million calls each week mean it had to improve its telephone service to handle all the calls, at the same time as upgrading its comms systems. AOL was forced to add modems following well publicised problems for AOL users last year, after the service grew from 500,000 to 10 million users in five years.
Case said too many consumers feel that the Internet is a technical medium they do not understand or need. Online software and access needs to be simple to use, reliable, safe, standards-based and inexpensive to appeal to the mass market, he said. "Serve Main Street, not Wall Street," he said.
Many Internet-based businesses will fold in the next year, Case predicted, because there will be a consolidation as leaders in Internet software and access emerge, similar to the battles in software during the 1980s. This battle will be accelerated by the move into the online market by communications companies like AT&T, software companies like Microsoft and media companies like Time Warner, he said.
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