It’s a Portal...AND It;s a Gateway

  • Written By: C. McNulty
  • Published: May 12 2000

It’s a Portal... AND It's a Gateway
C. McNulty - May 12, 2000

Event Summary

In April America Online [NYSE: AOL], the world's leading interactive services company, and Gateway [NYSE: GTW], the country's leading seller of consumer PCs by revenue, unveiled a groundbreaking family of specialized Internet appliances featuring "Instant AOL" that will deliver AOL's content, features, and services to consumers in every room of their homes.

Advancing the AOL Anywhere strategy, these new devices - the AOL Gateway countertop appliance, wireless Web pad and desktop appliance - are small, lightweight tools for accessing the Internet in a variety of ways during the course of a consumer's daily life.

These appliances will automatically launch the "Instant AOL" service, a customized version of AOL's convenient and easy-to-use software. It also will offer popular AOL content and features like e-mail and news as well as personalized services for busy households including AOL's My Calendar, recipes, coupons, and grocery lists. Nearly all of AOL's features, including the most popular AOL services like AOL Instant Messenger and chat, will be available on these devices.

The AOL Gateway family of specialized Internet appliances includes the AOL Gateway desktop appliance. The desktop appliance, a simplified Internet device for busy families and other consumers seeking additional ways to access the Web, will serve as a lower-cost alternative to the traditional PC. This easy-to-use appliance will provide consumers a reliable connection and fast access to the features and content of AOL and the Internet. Its convenient keyboard, mouse, and traditional computer screen will offer users familiar ways to gain access to news, e-mail and additional Web content. The desktop appliance is expected to go on sale by year's end.

These next-generation appliances will utilize the Netscape Gecko browser technology. Gecko, Netscape's smaller, faster and more potent browser engine technology, is a key component of the AOL Anywhere strategy and is designed to power Internet devices across a range of platforms and enable Web developers to create more compelling Internet-based content and applications. All of these devices will utilize the LINUX operating system.

Market Impact

Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner, must feel his hackles rise each time he sees another AOL 5.0 CD go out the door with Microsoft Internet Explorer as the embedded browser. Thanks to an agreement that predated AOL's buyout of Netscape, the Microsoft browser gets preferential treatment. AOL's Gateway alliance will help get more Netscape 6 browsers out there, in the "marketplace".

AOL's CompuServe division already had a similar arrangement with upcoming PC vendor eMachines, Inc. [NASDAQ:EEEE]. Under the eMachines deal, new eMachines PC's ship with preferred access to AOL & CompuServe via the CompuServe 2000 ISP service. But AOL hasn't even mentioned eMachines in its press releases since November 1999. Well, all's fair in love, war, and "strategic alliances".

We've yet to see a major consumer, front line device that uses Linux enjoy wide success. Despite great strides, Linux still needs major improvements in interface and application support to win favor as a desktop OS. AOL's original success came from simplifying online access for American consumers. Their work on the Linux "experience" will be an instructive example to other Linux desktop contenders.

User Recommendations

You won't be buying these for your business desktop any time soon. But these appliances will start to show up, gift-wrapped, during the 2000 holidays. Add another voice to the Peloponnesian chorus of users clamoring for remote Web access to corporate e-mail and applications.

comments powered by Disqus