America Online Inc. Tuesday made its AOL 9.0 client available to beta testers.
The software, code-named Blue Hawaii, is a marked departure from the last release, AOL 8.0, in offering a skinnable, or changeable, user interface code-named, "Prescott." With it, AOL members will have many more opportunities to design and customize the navigation and design of the AOL client.
AOL 9.0 also introduces a feature called QuickViews, which allows members to obtain information by rolling their mouse over a feature. "Personal Finance QuickView" opens a window revealing market prices for the members portfolio of ticker symbols, much like the dashboard in MSN 8.
Within the Prescott test, AOL has introduced its own "Dashboard" feature. Similar to the dashboard in MSN 8, AOLs includes local weather and stock quotes. The dashboard in AOL 9.0 also includes a dictionary, AOL Radio, and Google search feature.
One feature mentioned at Decembers AOL strategy day in New York, which is part of the AOL 9 beta, is "multiple personalities." Personalities allow users to select various sets of buddy icons, buddy sounds, and other personalized features and display them to different people.
"AOL is definitely taking steps to make the user experience fun, if not cool (to anybody over 14), said David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Research. "And one of the truly unique things about the Internet as a medium is its ability to support multiple personae. But I dont see anything in this list that strikes me as a powerful differentiator or demand-generator."