Finally Microsoft Corp.'s MSN has some real competition for its place on the Windows desktop in the shape of America Online Inc. (AOL), after PC maker Compaq Computer Corp. announced last week it would feature AOL icons on its desktops.
The desktop space, once a monopoly to MSN and 'friends' of Microsoft, was opened up by Microsoft earlier this month after pressure from the U.S. courts. This now means other providers of web access and messaging services can display their icons on the desktop.
Compaq computers will still feature Microsoft's MSN service but it will be embedded in the Start menu so that people will have to click and drag the cursor to gain access to it.
In the battle for supremacy Microsoft has accused AOL of underhand practices and rumours are circulating that AOL is planning to pay those manufacturers which choose their products US$35 for each new customer gained. "[AOL] is paying computer makers to eliminate consumer choice, forcing people to select the most expensive service in the industry," said Vivek Varma, a spokesperson for Microsoft, in a press statement.
AOL refused to comment on specific details but stressed it had not taken part in any underhand or illegal actions. "Microsoft just can't accept it now has competition," said an AOL spokeswoman.
So while the big boys are left to fight it out, customers should expect more choice and, in the long run, cheaper prices.
"Its all about choice," said AOL, "and we aim to provide that."