AOL to Test CD Install of Software Suite

While America Online won't go as far as to say AOL Suite will replace the aging AOL 9.0 client, the company is preparing to distribute its new package of applications on CD as part of a beta test called "Topeka." AOL Suite will be the first software from the company to ship on CD aside from its namesake client.

Integrating AOL Explorer, Mail and AIM Triton, AOL Suite will serve as the company's next-generation interface for subscribers. The idea was to build software that is more in tune with current consumer behavior -- from broadband to multi-tasking -- while moving away from an all-in-one client experience.

At the heart of AOL Suite lies a navigation bar that resides on the side of the screen to launch applications and provide instant access to AOL services such as travel and keywords. Pop-out menus offer quick access to incoming instant messages or e-mails.

AOL Suite also connects subscribers with the new Safety and Security Center and AOL Pictures online photo application. The company has placed enormous development resources on the project, issuing weekly updates to the software and providing technical assistance over the phone.

A move toward delivering AOL Suite on CD could indicate that the company is preparing to swap out its millions of AOL dial-up discs across the country with the new software package. In addition, it could ship the AOL Suite discs to current subscribers as a recommended upgrade.

Not even AOL denies that dial-up is quickly being relegated to the history books and AOL Suite provides a way for the company to keep users in the family. If members become accustomed to AOL's software lineup, they are more likely to keep using those applications even after they have transitioned to broadband.

But for the moment, Topeka is simply a beta aimed at testing installation configurations using physical media rather than a software download. AOL does not consider Topeka to be a successor to AOL 9.0 SE, the latest all-in-one client available to dial-up members.

AOL members running AOL 8.0 and higher can apply for the Topeka beta test on beta.aol.com.

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