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AOL launches Mac OS X software

North Americans only, please

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AOL today officially released the Mac OS X version of its Net access software, despite the UK operation's complaints that the market for Apple's new operating system is too small to be bothered with.

The release marks the culmination of a long beta testing programme and follows Apple's recent release of an updated version of its AirPort wireless LAN technology that supports AOL access.

Interestingly, when AirPort 2.0 was launched a few weeks ago, Apple was careful to stress that only AOL access in the US was supported. Could it be that Apple knew AOL was intending to drop OS X support in other territories? We hope not, though the Mac maker doesn't seem to have gone out of its way to try to reverse AOL UK's decision.

AOL's president of software strategy, Peter Ashkin, said: "America Online has a long and valued relationship with Apple and we wanted to provide compatibility with Apple's next-generation operating system."

The two companies do have a long relationship. If we remember correctly, AOL's software owes rather a lot to AppleLink, Apple's now long defunct graphical online service.

"We'll continue to look for opportunities to extend the AOL experience to the Mac community by programming the AOL service in ways that enhance the Macintosh user's experience," Ashkin added.

Unless, it seems, they live outside the US. AOL UK closed down its Mac OS X beta programme last month. It claimed the market was too small to warrant the effort of changing the US software's text strings into British English. An obvious solution would be to offer the US software unchanged, but there appears to be some barrier revolving around AOL UK's status as a partly-owned subsidiary of AOL US - the US parent is currently in the process of buying Bertelsmann's share in the European venture. Either that or the UK wing would rather avoid the tech support overhead of supporting another operating system.

At least the UK has some AOL access - AOL Australia, we hear, doesn't support anything but Windows. Ironic, that, given AOL's generally anti-Microsoft stance. Indeed, despite its acquisition of Netscape, AOL for Mac OS X, for one, remains based on Internet Explorer. ®

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