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For AOL, 8.0 is not yet enough

So just six months after the AOL 8.0 service makes its debut, the online giant is ready to launch an enhanced version, backed by a $35 million ad campaign.

America Online is planning to launch an enhanced version of its AOL 8.0 service next week as part of an effort to revitalize its struggling Internet service and to burnish the appeal of its broadband technology.

The launch of AOL 8.0 Plus comes six months after the AOL Time Warner division unveiled the first incarnation of AOL 8.0. As part of the launch, a source close to the company said, the online heavyweight will spend $35 million in an advertising campaign. The campaign got under way during Sunday night's Academy Awards show with a commercial starring actress Sharon Stone.

The Plus package, at the standard price of $23.90, will include firewall, antivirus software and parental controls that will function on the PC itself rather than within the AOL client. The service also includes the company's advanced e-mail software, Communicator; the ability to share AOL Radio with other AOL subscribers via instant messenger; and, for broadband users, a redesign of its Welcome Screen.

AOL will charge subscribers a slightly higher price--$24.95--for a version of the service that lets a single account have seven screen names that can dial in simultaneously, targeting homes with multiple computers. Up to now, the company permitted only one screen name to have access at any one time.

In addition, AOL introduced new pricing for its "bring your own access" service, which lets people get to AOL from a different Internet connection. The company will offer BYOA for $9.95 a month for the remainder of this year, but the revert back to its standard $14.95 price in 2004.

The launch of AOL 8.0 Plus highlights the latest changes that the Internet giant has implemented in hopes of turning around its fortunes. For more than a year, the once seemingly invincible Internet giant has watched its online advertising revenue plummet, its subscriber base stagnate, its top executives step down and its accounting practices come under investigation by federal regulators.

Central to the company's turnaround plans will be its flagship AOL service. Company executives last December outlined a multitiered strategy to maintain its base of 35 million dial-up subscribers while promoting broadband options--and without gutting its profit margins. BYOA is the centerpiece of the broadband strategy because in theory the company can charge people up to $15 a month to access its content via another broadband provider.

However, executives have also acknowledged that to entice BYOA subscribers, the company will have to improve its services. That means adding multimedia content, interactive features and entertainment products for high-speed connections.

AOL is also trying to launch more paid services in hopes of generating more revenue per subscriber. Later this week, the company will introduce AOL Voicemail, a service for subscribers that can record voice mail messages and send them as audio files to their e-mail in-boxes. The service will cost $5.95 a month.

Last week, AOL redesigned its home page, but a company representative said the redesign and the AOL 8.0 Plus launch were unrelated.