AOL Europe today rolled out its free Internet access service, Netscape Online, in a bid to counter free ISP Freeserve - analysts, however, maintain Dixons contender will be merely bruised.
AOL Europe claimed Netscape Online is part of its three prong strategy to take the throne in the European Internet market. AOL will look after the mainstream consumer, Compuserve will be directed at busy business professionals and the latest addition, Netscape Online, will cater for young Internet savvy users.
In order to get its Netscape Online brand into the market place, AOL has signed up a deal with Kingfisher to distribute Netscape Online software in 800 Woolworth stores nationwide.
In return, Woolworth and other brands owned by parent company Kingfisher, including Comet, B&Q and Superdrug, will become AOL "anchor tenants" on AOL and Netscape Online shopping channels.
AOL hopes to regain its position as market leader within the UK, knocking Freeserve off its number one position and making its services, “as central to people’s lives as the telephone or TV,” Karen Thomson, managing director of AOL UK.
“We had a very enthusiastic pre-registration response so we are even more confident Netscape can lead the online subscription free market here,” she said.
Thomson claims that AOL's research shows that 70 per cent of Freeserve members were open to trying out other services. She declined, however, to comment on target memberships for Netscape Online.
Analysts, however, doubt that Netscape Online will wipe Freeserve out of the picture.
“Freeserve may have taken over AOL in subscribers, but it didn’t blow it out of the water so it is highly unlikely Netscape will destroy Freeserve,” commented James Eibisch, research manager for IDC.
“Having said that the young Net savvy lad-ladette market fits very well into AOL’s portfolio and is undoubtedly a very big market, but if you look to the bigger view - AOL’s pan European strategy - the whole thing becomes much more attractive,” he added.
Andreas Schmidt, president and chief executive of AOL Europe, confirmed that it will be extending its services in Europe over the coming months. AOL Europe is expect to release plans for a flat rate for unlimited Internet access in Germany later this week.
AOL Europe claims to have 2.7 million households online. It still has a long way to go, however, to replicate its runaway success in the US where AOL boasts 20 million subscribers.
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