AOL Time Warner Inc. announced Tuesday version 7.0 of its AOL Internet software packed with new consumer services and communication tools, as well as a hefty dose of advertising.
The print and digital media company is promoting its new software -- which features new AOL-branded services for buying movie and concert tickets as well as new tools for listening to digital music -- with what it calls an "unprecedented marketing campaign."
The company said it plans to launch a blitz of advertisements to boost its user base of 31 million through AOL Time Warner's vast network of media outlets. Millions of AOL 7.0 disks will be distributed through direct marketing efforts, including inserts in Time Inc. magazines such as People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly, the company said. Disks will also be distributed in more than 30,000 retail outlets through Time Distribution Services.
Making use of its broad marketing power, AOL is pitching its new software for delivering services to subscribers on the Web. AOL 7.0 has a update to the "You've Got Pictures" service that subscribers can use to upload pictures from a digital camera, and then store and print those pictures.
The AOL 7.0 client also includes a built-in Internet radio service, dubbed Radio@AOL, and a service for purchasing tickets to movies, concerts and other events, AOL Box Office. The company is working with Ticketmaster and Moviephone to offer a range of event tickets.
Also new to the updated software are added features in AOL's instant messaging service. Users can now send instant messages to a group of "buddies."
The release of the AOL 7.0 software comes on the heels of a similar announcement from Microsoft, which announced Monday Version 7.0 of its MSN software. The new versions of Microsoft's Web portal and MSN Internet service software, due for release on Oct. 25, include several features that compete with AOL's popular service.
Both software packages come with updated media players for playing and managing digital music and video in addition to expensive marketing efforts -- Microsoft said the new MSN advertising campaign carries a US$50 million price tag. Both also include new features intended to push customers toward broadband.
The MSN Internet service will now be available to broadband users in the U.S. AOL said that has built its new software to detect when a user is connected to the Internet with high-speed access to offer enhanced services.
AOL Time Warner has recently begun launching high-speed service to users in the U.S. as it works to comply with government orders imposed on the media giant when it merged into one company. Third-party providers, including Earthlink Inc. and Juno Online Services Inc. are working with AOL Time Warner to offer broadband through their wires.
AOL 7.0 is available for download Tuesday in the U.S. Software for users in the U.K., Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Japan and Mexico will be available later this year, the company said. AOL Germany will launch the software in the coming months.
AOL Time Warner, in New York, can be reached at +1-212-484-8000 or via the Web at http://www.aoltimewarner.com.