AOL tweaks BlueString, preps new XDrive

BlueString gets Facebook widget; XDrive gets AIR application.

AOL's new AIR-based XDrive front-end is simple, but universal.

At CES, AOL was showing new features in its media-sharing service, BlueString (see hands-on). The latest news is the release of a Facebook app, My Memory Gallery, that lets you share your pictures with your Facebook pals. It's a nice bow to AOL's realization that, "We need to be where people actually are," as a representative told me. In my quick tryout of the application, though, I found no way to move files from preexisting BlueString folders into the Gallery folder so they'd show up on the Facebook widget. That kind of burst my bubble.

I also checked out a new version of XDrive, whose technology is at the core of BlueString. The new AIR-based XDrive UI, called Oxygen, is scheduled to drop in February. It will be a much simpler application than the current C-based app, and represents the future of the XDrive Web site as well. AOL will eventually phase out the Windows-based XDrive user interface, although at the moment it does things an AIR app cannot, such as automated file backup.

Users can access their files XDrive files from BlueString and vice versa, but the products are designed for different audiences and have different features. BlueString, designed for the "female head of household," recognizes only media files and gives you fancy slide show and sharing functions. The older XDrive brand represents a more technical product with better file management features, and while the interface will work with any and all file types, it doesn't have the same presentation features.

I'd rather have just one app that can do it all, but AOL's marketing geniuses clearly see a value in different interfaces and features for different demographics. (I'd also like to see an unlimited storage option instead of the 50GB space you get for $99 a year with both products.)

XDrive, ultimately, competes with upstart online file stores (, for example), live backup apps like Carbonite, and even raw storage services like Amazon's S3. The XDrive product was going downhill in the period before and after AOL bought it in 2005. It's good to see some resources finally being applied to the service.

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