There is a story in the "Right Stuff" (story of the
test pilots who went into the space program) by Tom Wolf
about a pilot who flew his plane directly into the ground
while looking at his instruments that said he was doing fine.
He found no sympathy with other pilots who derided him for
"not looking out the window."
AOL has such major problems
1) MSFT and ATT have combined to attempt to make the
household entry point cable with a proprietary cable modem.
ATT has come close to betting their company on this and it
is not a bad strategy. Further the strategy is to preclude others
(read AOL) from having access. If AOL is unsuccessful at gaining
legal redress - they could be history. And ATT is a master! at
such political infighting with special entrenchment in the communications
portions of government.
2) MSFT just announced the intention of offering ISP
services for FREE. Sounds familiar, remember when MSFT
wanted to be a browser provider despite the fact that
Netscape had nearly all the market. And where is Netscape
now (and how has it aided AOL in any manner.) If
MSFT is in anyway successful AOL's current problems with
inability to expand user base will get worse.
3) AOL provides an inferior service - much slower with
screens filled with banner ads. Further sailing into
the wind with keywords vs normal internet URL's (you
must use AOL unique procedures to reach sites that
give their address in URL formats.) And this can only
get worse - suppose that AOL is allowed to access through
pending cable modems, they will have to layer on top
of protocols with conversion routines that must be slaved
to ATT/MSFT base. Does anyone remember when IBM was king
and how they controlled the computer market by controlling
the access through ports.
In sum, AOL is such risk of being a technology loser and
this is never discussed - everyone seems to only focus on
the marketing and market meters on the instrument panel
.. no one is looking out the window.