AOL debuts new desktop software for Windows

After its OpenRide software was not well received, the ISP went back to the drawing board. The result was AOL Desktop, which released Friday.

"Helix," as it was called in beta, follows the general gist of OpenRide, but also continues a path the company has been following for the past several years, including its Communicator, Fanfare, and AOL Suite projects.

AOL never called Helix the successor to OpenRide, but said that many of the changes in the application came out of what the ISP learned from its previous incarnation.

With the official release of AOL Desktop, it could signal all but the end of the company's much ballyhooed "walled garden" approach. All of the features of Desktop could be similarly accessed outside of the software.

It is not clear how the company's older service software now fits into the mix. It isn't even completely clear whether the company will push the users of that software to migrate to the Desktop platform: it has recently restarted development there.

The ISP says the key features which should attract users to the new software include tabbed browsing without having to sign in to the AOL service itself; management of multiple e-mail accounts including non-AOL addresses; built in AIM and Mapquest; and AppMap, a new method for allowing quick access to all open Windows.

"This is our newest all-in-one downloadable software combining mail, messaging and content in one easy-to-use application," an AOL spokesperson told BetaNews. "It has a sleek, modern design, and offers the most efficient desktop experience yet."

It indeed does offer a much faster online experience than its predecessor, AOL 9. However, it remains to be seen where Desktop fits in to AOL's overall service equation.

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