Compuserve has announced details of its new client software and claims it will pave the way for the next generation of its online service, for ?the discerning consumer".
The new software, called Compuserve 2000, is the first major announcement since the company was bought by AOL earlier this year. The software is currently in beta test and will be available early next year.
The online service is aimed at busy professional users and the more discerning user - ?one who is prepared to pay for a premium service which places them in a community of likeminded people,? said Martin Turner, Compuserve UK?s managing director.
While the new service is radically different in appearance from the old Compuserve, it bears a striking resemblance to the AOL model. Compuserve insists the new ?look and feel? will not only be easier to use, but with the addition of 56Kbps network access, new products and services, and enhanced parental and spam controls, it will differentiate the company in the highly competitive online market.
Believing email to be the cornerstone of an online service, Compuserve has added many features designed to help improve the effectiveness of mail communication. Each subscriber gets five email accounts, with addresses ending in cs.com. Text can be formatted, checked for grammar and spelling, files attached, pictures imported and hyperlinks inserted.
However, there is a lack of features useful for professional users, such as an ?auto-responder? to inform senders if they are unavailable.
?We are using a certain amount of common infrastructure [with AOL], which is common in a multibrand company,? explained Konrad Hilbers, executive vice president of Compuserve Europe.
The service will also have Instant Messenger which, with the help of a contact list, alerts users when friends are online and allows them to exchange text based messages in real time. This, combined with a UK chat forum, is designed to attract Internet users who want more than just free access. ?It?s a whole package,? said Turner.
The new Compuserve service will have UK specific content gathered from a host of partners displayed using HTML for a Web look and feel.
While users of current Compuserve services are promised easy migration, Windows CE and NT users will be in for a disappointment. Turner confirmed that neither Compuserve nor AOL has any plans to support the new crop of Windows CE handheld devices, while NT support will be added soon after the initial launch.
Turner admitted that the new service is not perfect. ?All business users may not be satisfied, but we are catering for the majority of consumers,? he said.
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