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AOL.COM REBOOTS QUIETLY WITH FRIENDLY VERSION

America Online recently launched a new Web-friendly version of its AOL.com with indications there's more coming for everyone.

AOL.com is now a portal for subscribers to access many of its service's features, including e-mail from any Internet-connected computer.

It offers opportunities to customize the home page with news, weather, services and financial information.

Some elements of the page appear to be available free, including access to the recently launched InStore Shopping service, and a video segment about special effects in "Star Wars," sponsored by Circuit City.

It makes sense that greater content and services will be made available to build an audience for AOL.com as the company pursues advertising revenues inside and outside its paid service.

Separately, there was a recent report by BetaNews.com that AOL is developing desktop search technology, similar to that announced by Google.

The ability to scour America Online for information and content, as well as a user's own hard disk, e-mail and even instant messages, "would be an enticing utility," Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research, told BetaNews.

AOL didn't issue a news release about the relaunch. A spokeswoman said, "It's kind of like a preview. It will be improved and enhanced over the next several months."

High-flyin' broadband

Verizon Communications, AirCell Inc. and Boeing Co. are among the most interested parties in next month's expected decision by the Federal Communications Commission on auctioning spectrum that could make broadband Internet access available at 35,000 feet.

While Boeing's Connexion system is already in use on some international flights, U.S. carriers have shied away from it due to the $500,000 installation cost and the system's weight.

An alternative is to install an antenna that would send and retrieve data from a network of ground towers. That would cost about $80,000 per plane. A spokesman for American Airlines said he prefers the FCC award spectrum to several providers.

"We want a marketplace that has competition, so when it's time for us to go shopping, we have alternatives," Erik Miller, manager of aircraft engineering, told USA Today.

AirCell, a provider of airborne telecommunications systems, estimates its broadband service would cost consumers less than $10 per flight.

Big hits for baseball

Major League Baseball announced it set a new record for visitors to MLB.com.

Operated by MLB's Advanced Media Division, the site has been visited year-to-date by 730 million people, compared with 650 million in all of 2003.

-- CBS MarketWatch