AOL tests standalone e-mail product

America Online is testing a standalone e-mail client that could set the stage for a features battle with Microsoft in the market for Internet-based communications software. Called "AOL Communicator," the new software bundles a beefed-up version of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and an address book with an e-mail client that mirrors Microsoft's popular Outlook application in appearance and features, according to a version of the software seen by CNET News.com.

The software comes with an identity manager that lets a person digitally sign and encrypt e-mails and instant messages, a function that would likely appeal to business users. The e-mail client also lets a person send and manage e-mail using different accounts, by forwarding messages from POP or IMAP (Internet message access protocol) e-mail servers.

AOL spokeswoman Catherine Corre confirmed the company is developing AOL Communicator but declined to comment on specifics, as the product is at an early testing stage.

Corre said AOL Communicator will target "heavy users of AIM and advanced users of e-mail," but would not say whether the company plans to charge for the software or whether it would be sold to companies or to AOL subscribers.

"It's a solution that's powerful and simple to use," Corre said. "It's trying to integrate AOL POP and IMAP e-mail experiences. But I think it's premature to make any comparisons with anything."

AOL's development efforts come as Microsoft prepares to release a major upgrade to its Exchange e-mail server software, set to launch in mid-2003. Developed under the codename Titanium, the upgrade is roughly timed to coincide with a face-lift for Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client. The company says these moves will together provide significant advances for its e-mail products.

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I do agree that this AOL flaming is getting bad. AOL has definitely earned a reputation of releasing dodgy software when it comes to their AOL browser, but, for me, things like AIM and Winamp have worked fine. I would greatly be interested in this Email program if it was free and the idea of an AIM with more features is alluring.

See this is what I don't understand... even though I have MSN all the AOL bash posts are starting to annoy me. Whats wrong with them trying to improve their service??? If they improve it - then maybe some you people will stop being so critical when ever the word AOL comes up.

Sounds like a good idea, for the people that use AOL hopefully they will be able to manage their e-mail better.