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CompuServe tries to Wow the rest of us

In an effort to attract the still-considerable number of consumers who haven't jumped online, CompuServe will debut its new Wow online service aimed at novice users and families on March 25.

In an effort to attract the still-considerable number of consumers who haven't jumped online, CompuServe will debut its new Wow online service aimed at novice users and families on March 25.

"Our users will come from all walks of life," said Scott Kauffman, general manager of Wow. "For them, technology is not a hobby. They simply want it to work."

The service, initially available only to Windows 95 users, will cost $17.95 per month for unlimited access to those who sign up before June 30. CompuServe members can get Wow for $14.95. The company did not specify pricing after the promotional period ends.

The company hopes to launch a version of Wow for Mac users by the end of the year, but the service will not be available for Windows 3.1, Windows NT, or OS/2.

CompuServe created the service in an effort to attract the millions of consumers yet to enter cyberspace, who represent 89 percent of households in the United States, according to a study released this month by Odyssey, a San Francisco-based research group. CompuServe believes that it has a window of only a year to secure its position as the leading online service, a status now held by archrival America Online.

"Those [consumers] who plan to go online will by 1997," predicted Bob Massey, president and CEO of CompuServe, which he said created Wow because there is not a "one size fits all" service.

Wow will include content on four topics--entertainment, living, sports, and money--and run with two different interfaces: one for adults and one for kids. A teenager interface is also in the works, and Wow will maintain separate content and support staff just for children.

For Internet access, Wow will use Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, even though existing CompuServe online users have Netscape Communications' Navigator.