December 6th, 2001, 10:26 PM
I found this while I was reading the newspaper today, so I went to the paper's site and decided to share it with everyone. If you want the full article, its here http://inq.philly.com/content/inquir...life/AOL06.htm at www.philly.com.
Easy to use and impossible to ignore, America Online, the titan of Internet access, continues to pile on subscribers. The company announced last week that its membership had reached 32 million.
Analysts say that number includes as many as 26.3 million subscribers in the United States - more than three times the membership of its closest rival, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN service, which has seven million U.S. subscribers.
Put another way: Nearly one out of every four U.S. Internet users is an AOL customer....
....But AOL is frequently maligned as limited, low-brow, suspiciously effortless, the Internet for dummies....
...."I saw, someplace, a comparison: AOL is to the Internet as Readers Digest is to the Encyclopedia Britannica," said market consultant Bill Ablondi, head of MarketMaps L.L.C....
....Yet some say AOL is already too big.
"If, in the next five years, there isn't an antitrust suit against AOL, [founder] Steve Case will have missed his dream," said Russ Neuman, a professor of media technology at the University of Michigan. He called AOL "the Standard Oil of Dulles, Va."
Neuman's concern is the media empire created by this year's merger of AOL and Time Warner. Such media combinations are designed "to be so big that any new [entertainment] enterprise could not possibly succeed without you," he said....
....Rivals see it differently.
MSN product manager Sarah Lefko said her service was effective in converting AOL members to its own side. "We continue to gain ground on them," she said. ". . . People really want to move up. Some people depict AOL as Internet access with training wheels. When they go to MSN, they can take a step up."
Ablondi said Microsoft posed the most serious challenge to AOL, not least because Microsoft remains in control of the operating system on most PCs, and relentlessly pushes its own services. "Don't forget, Goliath is sitting up in Redmond, Wash., and coming on strong," he said.
But other experts said MSN appeared unlikely to catch AOL anytime soon, in spite of its backing by the world's largest software company.
"I would say there's really no competition there," said Randall Crum, a professor of technology at Southern Vermont College. "There have been a lot of [MSN] promotions with rebates for subscribers, but, as I see it, the Microsoft Network really isn't touching in any way the predominance of AOL"....
AOL or Microsoft. The choice is yours.