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Apple is preparing its own ISP service centred on its own Internet portal, according to reports on Apple-oriented Web site MacInTouch. Apple representatives told the site that the company is planning such a move, but would give no details on what the service will provide and how it will work. They did, however, suggest that the upcoming MacWorld Expo show in New York, to be held between 20 and 23 July, would be a likely venue for the official announcement of the service. That, said MacInTouch, ties in well with a reader, who claimed Apple was close to signing a deal with US-based customer management and billing software company Portal. Portal develops software to help ISPs manage their subscribers accounts, suggesting that Apple is preparing to move into that arena itself. Certainly such a move makes sense. Apple's own data suggest over 80 per cent of iMac buyers are choosing the machine specifically for its claimed ease of access to the Net. That's a lot of subscribers willing to pay $10 a month (or whatever) to surf the Web, and Apple may as well reap that reward as any other ISP. The plan also follows moves by the likes of Dell and Compaq, to name but two, to offer Net connection, primarily through DSL links, with certain systems. And with the big online services, most notably AOL, now looking at breaking into the hardware market (see AOL forges deal with eMachines), computer vendors are going to have to look at ways of making moves into the ISP business. Apple is at least no stranger to the online world -- its AppleLink service was a pioneer among online services, and its successor, eWorld, would probably have done rather better than it did had Apple not held back on Windows support. The arrival of cheap access to the Web at exactly the same time didn't help eWorld's chances much either. ®

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