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SBC Yahoo's new look for fall

Yahoo and SBC Communications launch an updated version of their joint Internet access services, a move that mirrors similar enhancements by competitors America Online and MSN.

Yahoo and SBC Communications launched an updated version of their joint Internet access services on Tuesday, in a move that mirrors similar enhancements by competitors America Online and MSN.

The changes in the latest version of SBC Yahoo's digital subscriber line (DSL) and dial-up services include software enhancements and a makeover of its customized Web browser. New services will include beefed-up parental controls, a pop-up advertisement blocker and antivirus protection for the entire PC.

Other feature tweaks include the ability to drag and drop files, such as photos and music, into e-mail and instant messages. The service also lets two subscribers browse the same Web page at the same time.

SBC and Yahoo's latest service revamp comes in the midst of a race between Web giants for the hearts and minds of broadband users. America Online and Microsoft this summer unveiled new versions of their Internet services that include features considered more desirable to broadband customers. AOL has banked on multimedia content such as video and audio programming to spice up its long-stagnant online service; MSN has put its money on offering more sophisticated software applications to differentiate itself from rivals.

SBC Yahoo's latest upgrade is similar to that of its competitors. Last year, AOL discontinued selling pop-up advertisements and in March introduced blocking software. MSN has also discontinued pop-ups and plans to introduce pop-up filtering software in its upcoming update.

AOL and MSN have also offered complete PC antivirus software as part of their packages. AOL 9.0 Optimized also offers drag-and-drop file sharing.

However, AOL and MSN are in a more serious bind than Yahoo is. Both services are witness to mass defections from their dial-up subscribers, many of whom are jumping to broadband services provided by phone and cable companies. In July, AOL announced that it lost 846,000 subscribers from the previous quarter.

For SBC Yahoo, the number of subscribers keeps growing. Last quarter, SBC said it added 304,000 new DSL customers, the most among its Baby Bell peers. Yahoo benefits from this growth because it can report these additions as new paid customers, a population that Yahoo has been trying to grow to prove it can diversify from online advertising.

Yahoo last quarter reported 3.5 million paid customers who subscribe to an array of services such as Internet access, enhanced e-mail and personals.