Once they decided to move away from the access business, AOL is going all out and offering all sorts of free services to cash in on the current eyeball boom, and of course hang on to their dwindling community. Earlier this summer they offered 5 GB free storage to one and all (thanks to that X Drive acquisition), a free phone number, and now they are offering OpenRide to broadband users.
The software, while retaining some of the visual cues of the classic AOL, is fairly clean and easy to use. It is clearly targeted at folks who are comfortable with the AOL interface, but are now switching to broadband connections. For them, this could be best of both worlds. (That is if your world involves a computer running Windows XP Service Pack 2.)
OpenRide is essentially a browser that is split into four panes – one each for e-mail (including accounts that are from non-AOL domains,) instant messaging, video and general Web browsing. The software also has a search box, which is tied to AOL search engine. You can playback entertainment content such as videos as well. These panes resize depending on what you are doing – if you are browsing, the browser dominates, and when checking mail, well mail pane takes up a big portion of the screen. (I am not quite sure what browser this is based on, but hopefully will hear from AOL folks soon, and will update, accordingly.)
Does OpenRide remind you of Flock but for more mainstream users? Anyway, do you think this could become more of a trend going forward – companies like Comcast and SBC offering their own little browser-based clients?