Internet

AOL's "Alerts" resembles .Net's beginnings

The content-delivery system unveiled by America Online mirrors Microsoft's ambitious strategy--though AOL denies following in the software maker's footsteps.

America Online on Thursday unveiled a content-delivery system that mirrors Microsoft's ambitious .Net strategy.

The new service, called "AOL Alerts," shoots information to AOL-enabled cell phones, pagers and Mobile Communicator e-mail devices. That means AOL can send sports scores, weather reports, stock quotes and news headlines via e-mail and instant messenger to members who are away from their main computers.

The introduction of AOL Alerts highlights the ongoing turf battle between AOL Time Warner's online division and software goliath Microsoft. In October, Microsoft introduced .Net Alerts, the first in a series of services tied to its .Net strategy. Microsoft has touted .Net as the way to move software sales online, using subscriptions rather than shrink-wrapped packages.

But AOL spokeswoman Kathie Brockman denied the company is following in Microsoft's footsteps. She said the service is an evolution of "AOL Anywhere," the company's long-promoted attempt to offer interactive services outside the PC.

"We're not focused on what they're offering," she said of Microsoft. "AOL Alerts is a continuation of AOL 7's emphasis on relevant and important information and making it available to members anytime, anywhere."

see special report: Web services: The new buzz AOL, along with many Microsoft critics, has expressed concern over .Net. The central worry regards .Net's reliance on Web sign-in and wallet service Passport, which Microsoft has embedded in Windows XP. Passport is the software that permits entry into Microsoft's popular Hotmail e-mail service, and it is expected to act as the central authentication hub for future .Net functions.

However, AOL has not stood by quietly. In December, AOL Time Warner joined the Liberty Alliance Project, a coalition of companies creating a central online registration and identity technology to challenge Passport. Members include Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, eBay, United Airlines and General Motors.