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Excite@Home's new service puts content in fast lane

The company unveils its long-awaited portal for high-speed Internet connections, the latest sign of an emerging trend toward "rich" Web content.

Excite@Home today launched its long-awaited portal for high-speed Internet connections, the latest sign of an emerging trend toward "rich" Web content.

The company's new service, dubbed @Home 2000, marks one of the first tangible results of last year's merger between @Home Network and Excite. The deal was intended to combine Excite's Web content with @Home's fast, broadband cable-based Net connections to create a powerful new media company.

"This is the first convergence between the narrowband side of Excite and the broadband delivery side of the business," said Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, a consulting and market research company. "This is about content that takes advantage of high-speed connections."

The new look, which some analysts expected earlier this year, includes a revamped interface and start-up screen for the more than 1 million customers of Excite@Home's cable modem service.

The new version provides members with greater personalization--the ability to highly customize Web content--and underscores a growing trend toward Web content specifically tailored for high-speed connections.

Most analysts expect high-speed Internet connections, such as those offered by cable modems, digital subscriber lines (DSL), satellites and wireless technologies, to explode in popularity and availability in the next few years. As a result, many Web sites and streaming media companies are developing special content for those so-called broadband pipes, such as video clips, animation and audio, to attract customers.

For example, Web giant Yahoo today unveiled a new streaming audio and video show, called FinanceVision, focused on financial news and information.

Numerous other portals offer high-speed versions of their services for people with the bandwidth to comfortably view the complex content. Snap, a portal operated by NBC, began offering high-speed content via its Cyclone service last year. Lycos also offers broadband content, called Lycos Lightning.

Many analysts have said that simply offering faster connections to Web sites will grow old for many users, and that special applications designed for fast connections will result in more loyal users--and higher profit margins.

But some analysts expect so much content designed for faster connections that they say portals will need to keep broadening their offerings.

"There will be such a variety of rich media content that the fact that some of it is aggregated on one portal is an interim attraction," Arlen said. "(Therefore), Excite@Home has got to keep doing more."

The company's new service includes a custom version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 browser software. The interface has been in customer trials since December.

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