NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The name says it all: OpenRide. AOL's first major software makeover since announcing its ambitions to compete as a free and open broadband portal debuts today. The Time Warner unit has openly bet its future on free platforms and services, and their ability to bring in ad dollars.
The 'Quad View'
The all-in-one program, distinct from typical one-task-at-a-time web browsers, splits its main window into four panes: e-mail, instant messaging, video and browsing. This "Quad View" interface adjusts automatically as users shift from one activity to another.
"OpenRide is a new addition to AOL's growing suite of free products and services," said Joel Davidson, exec VP-products and technology, AOL. "We saw an opportunity to provide a new kind of software that could streamline [users'] core activities."
AOL is counting on its new software and service to draw former AOL subscribers who have since defected to rival services such as Yahoo, Google and MSN. AOL stopped charging its $15 monthly subscription fee to broadband users in August.
Analysts not convinced
Even with OpenRide, analysts are not convinced that AOL can retain its existing base amid intense competition from rivals. In early August, analysts at Bear Sterns predicted that AOL would shed its subscribers faster than expected.
One component of OpenRide is the "Dynasizer" navigation tool, which lets users resize the on-screen panes that are specifically designed to work with each other. For example, a user can share digital photos from the Media Center through e-mail -- not just AOL e-mail -- or send an instant message with a single click.
The all-in-one digital entertainment Media Center also allows users to view videos from their hard drives or from the web, including highlights from the new AOL Video portal. Using the Media Center, consumers can also access music (from AOL Radio or from their personal libraries).