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CompuServe follows AOL's lead

Now that America Online has gone first, CompuServe will close deals with both Microsoft and AT&T's WorldNet dial-up Internet access service by the end of April, sources close to CompuServe told CNET.

Nobody wants to be left out of this party.

Now that America Online has gone first, CompuServe will close deals with both Microsoft and AT&T's WorldNet dial-up Internet access service by the end of April, sources close to CompuServe told CNET.

The deals will replicate those struck over the last two weeks between AOL and AT&T and between AOL and Microsoft, the sources said. That is to say, a subscription to CompuServe content will be offered as an option for WorldNet customers, who will get unlimited access for a single flat rate instead of paying hourly surcharges, as CompuServe customers do now.

An AT&T spokesman would not comment on any pending negotiations. "We talk to most major people in the industry, and we may well be talking, but I can't confirm or deny until the papers are signed," AT&T's Kevin Compton said.

Sources said the CompuServe icon will pop up on Microsoft's Windows 95 desktop this summer, alongside icons for Microsoft Network and AOL, the leading online service.

And the three may end up next to the Prodigy icon as well. Prodigy officials confirmed yesterday that the company also expects to sign a deal with Microsoft.

When the dust settles, WorldNet customers and Windows 95 users can probably expect to have access to all three of the leading online services by simply clicking their desktop icons.

"If you look at all these deals going on, you will find that nothing is exclusive," CompuServe spokesman Jeff Shafer said. "What you're finding is that the bigger the pie, the bigger the piece. AT&T and Microsoft are opening new doorways for us, and we welcome that. Our goal is to slice open the pie and take as many pieces as we can."

But will all the headlines over deals and alliances really change the online service landscape?

According to Shafer, probably not. "In the end, nothing will have changed. The end result is that nobody has jumped in the lead, and it will be just as competitive as it always has been."