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AOL's CEO bullish on 8.0

Jonathan Miller, AOL's newly appointed CEO, makes his first public address, calling AOL 8.0 the "most important introduction" in the company's lifespan.

Jonathan Miller, the newly appointed CEO of America Online, made his first public address Thursday, saying the company's forthcoming AOL 8.0 product will mark a significant turning point for the embattled AOL Time Warner division.

Calling 8.0 the "most important introduction" in AOL's lifespan, Miller stressed that the upcoming version of AOL will include a handful of new features such as exclusive entertainment programming, better customization of the service, and new interactive chat rooms.

Miller, a former USA Interactive executive who joined AOL in August, said the upcoming Oct. 15 launch would reinforce the service's attention to product development. Miller also emphasized his commitment to improving AOL's broadband product, quelling statements by predecessor Bob Pittman that AOL would be better served focusing on its dominant dialup product.

"Our commitment to broadband is clear and unwavering," Miller told a sparse crowd at the annual Internet World conference.

AOL is trying to refurbish its image after a year that has been sullied by a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation over the compay's accounting practices, the departure of many of its original executives, and steep declines in revenue and subscriber growth. After hiring Miller and re-tweaking the company's management team, AOL is attempting to return to its roots by focusing on improving the service rather than just trying to sell advertisements on it.

The company's rhetoric during its perennial upgrades for AOL has consistently centered around the idea of improving the service based on what its members demand. However this time around, the new features touted by Miller remain unclear.

Miller's comments come after a speech earlier this week from AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case in which he outlined his goals for turning around AOL. Case matched Miller's comments about renewing AOL's focus on original interactive programming, improving its broadband service, and increasing its e-commerce and advertising revenue.

Indeed, AOL has begun to explore ways to tap alternative sources of revenue now that its online advertising dollars have declined so severely. AOL is planning to launch a new online liquidation program that allows retailers to post items for sale at discounted prices throughout AOL. The company will take a cut of transactions.

For now, the launch of AOL 8.0 marks the beginning attempt to model the service after a television network where subscribers get exclusive access to event-driven programming. Although AOL has been doing this for years, the company seems to have adopted this as one of its main foundations for publicizing its turnaround.