Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Google and Comcast: Got mail? (CNN story)

Regarding possible bidding war between Google, Comcast, Microsoft and maybe others for parts of AOL...

I was never a particularly big fan of AOL, and have never been a paying customer, on the other hand, in terms of "evilness" (or lack thereof) I think AOL has a lot more in common with Google than Microsoft.

AOL has pumped a lot of money into various "open" software efforts over the years, keeping Netscape, Winamp, Shoutcast among others, funded as a customer, or by acquiring the remains of these efforts when nobody else was interested. I stopped using ICQ when they acquired that, thinking they would ruin it. They didn't, however after jumping from one IM to another over the years I find that AIM suits me just fine and apparently I'm not alone in this. I use the built-in iChat client on my Apple machine, and I use Gaim under Linux, so essentially AOL has been providing me with a free service for a couple of years now and I've never paid them a dime or even viewed an ad to pay for the service indirectly.

Beyond that, it seems to be an industry secret (I haven't seen it reported ANYWHERE!) that AOL is quietly re-inventing itself mostly through the AIM namespace. Since I've never been an AOL customer, I am only known to them via the free AIM ID I signed up for several years ago. At the time it was linked with what was left of the Netscape organization with a fairly useless free e-mail id. These days, you can get a free AIM branded e-mail address that comes with (hold on to your seats):

2Gig of storage, and IMAP client interface, and AJAX interface with the look of Outlook, complete with drag and drop folder actions. NOBODY else has this, and nobody seems to be talking about it, which shows how dependent our tech press is on formal press releases to actually know what is going on (they don't actually experiment with the tech on their own).

Oh, did I mention they have a blogging service that already rivals MSN's (OK that's not saying much). You can load up to 98 meg of stuff onto a personal web page (I don't know how they arrived at that particular limit), do photo albums, schedule recurring tasks, generate automated e-mails, although there seems to be no formal calendar yet, and probably a few other things that I haven't discovered. If you have the right cell phone, which I don't, you can apparently use AIM from that too. All of this is free (although I can't test the cell phone bit) and can be used on Linux, OS X, and of course Windows.

AOL has long been platform agnostic, although they get dragged kicking and screaming into helping Microsoft lock users in to Windows on a regular basis. The recent kiss-and-make-up between Microsoft and Real I think underscores how desperate Microsoft is getting for friends. The existence of Google coupled with Microsoft's long reputation of screwing over anything that moves into its field of vision, I think has finally started working seriously against the big company and in favor of all the screwees. Google may have squashed the online Office-killer rumors for now, but gradually more and more of what we do with computers is online and offers no particular advantage, and in some cases a major disadvantage, to the Windows user. The technology set-back that clueless user's infatuation with Windows has caused for the past 10 years is finally coming to an end and we may see that some old dinosaurs like AOL and IBM (just to name two) have a lot more upside potential than anyone ever thought (particularly the "tech analysts").

No comments:

Post a Comment