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AOL is about to mail a million CD-ROMs a week containing version 4.0 of its software. It will not be AOL's most expensive campaign, however, as in the 1995 and 1996 marketing campaigns, as Abishek Gami, William Blair & Co's Internet analyst, estimates that 100 million disks were despatched. So far, some five million AOL users have downloaded the new version. AOL currently has more than 13 million subscribers. Bob Pittman, AOL's president, ambitiously told a recent conference of financial analysts that AOL expects to pass the 40 million mark "in a few years". The prize that AOL has not yet awarded is a contract for set-top boxes, as part of its drive to increase AOL use. The front contender is believed to be NCI, but it is not saying anything -- partly because of its IPO plans. AOL acquired NetChannel to help craft its interactive TV content last year, but did not launch a service for Christmas as had been expected at the time. It is just possible that there will be a development for Christmas this year. NCI is seen to be more flexible than its competitors in its ability to tailor a requirement to its product capability. Meanwhile, in the US at least, watch out for an AOL CD-ROM in the cornflakes, and many consumer queuing areas. Even the kiddies will be assaulted in school cafeterias, Pittman said. ® Click for more stories

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