Excite@Home Corp. is moving forward with the launch of a
broadband portal on the Excite side of the company, but with a twist that, together with
other moves, promises to strengthen, rather than dilute, the cable-only commitment of the
With "@Home 2000," the cable ISP will open access
to the Excite broadband portal starting March 28 to @Home customers, leaving it blocked
from access by other broadband-enabled visitors to Excite, including
digital-subscriber-line and nonaffiliated cable-data subscribers -- at least for now.
"We're not making any formal announcements about
offering anything on the open Web," said Joe Kraus, senior vice president of content
and cofounder of Excite. "We're looking at opportunities for offering access to
a broader group of people, but we don't have any firm plans."
The new broadband version of Excite offers @Home customers
a wider range of options for broadband content than they have had until now, Kraus noted.
"We took the entire Excite portal and moved it to broadband," he said.
Users with access to this version of Excite will
automatically be provided with a broadband-enhanced version of any content that suppliers
from the various affiliated entities directly tied into Excite have created for broadband
"One of the things we found about what people know
about broadband is that they associate the term with being able to get high-quality audio
and video," Kraus said. "We had to make sure we met these expectations by
integrating rich media throughout the site."
The always-on aspect of cable-data service will bring all
of the Excite applications -- such as yellow pages and movie-information resources -- to
broadband, as well, Kraus added.
The broadband enhancement of Excite also makes it easier to
revise personalized pages by being able to "drag and drop modules around the
page" using the bandwidth-consuming dynamic version of HTML (HyperText Markup
Language), which is too ungainly for narrowband users.
@Home 2000 is trying to extend the broadband experience to
what people are accustomed to from the Internet, starting with browsing.
By providing "short cuts" and new
direct-interaction command options with the newly revised browser, the service will afford
users an opportunity to take advantage of their broadband connection no matter where they
are on the Internet, Kraus said.
For example, users will be able to click open search boxes
instantly from any site, rather than having to click on a uniform resource locator and
wait for the search page to load.
An icon signaling that e-mail has arrived will flash no
matter where the user is on the Web, and there will be a shortcut button to the local
content @Home's MSO affiliates are providing with the service.
@Home 2000 also represents a shift to the Excite portal,
with its lineup of more than 1,000 content and application affiliates, as the jumping-off
point for the broadband-content experience.
This allows the company to leverage its content resources
more effectively against the competitive challenges posed by America Online Inc. and other
service providers developing broadband versions.
Because advertising can be an increasingly significant
portion of the revenue picture for broadband services, company officials had said that the
broadband version of Excite would be offered to a larger base of users than @Home can
deliver as a cable service.
But internal debates have raged over how to go about
broadening that base. Some officials advocated using the assets developed for @Home's
cable base -- including a nationwide broadband-backbone network -- to provide a similar
content experience for DSL users. Others vehemently opposed that.
At one point, Leo J. Hindery Jr., then CEO of AT&T
Corp.'s cable unit, publicly overruled Excite@Home chairman Tom Jermoluk on the
issue, saying the service would not be open to DSL. But after Hindery's departure
from cable to become CEO of GlobalCenter Inc., officials spoke openly of moving to the
more aggressive Excite broadband strategy.
Now officials refuse to discuss how the company might
respond to the new competitive environment, in which a combined AOL and Time Warner Inc.
could deliver broadband services, including "AOL TV," over all types of
facilities and throw open its cable networks for access by other Internet-service
"On that topic, we're not making any
comments," Kraus said.
Meanwhile, Excite@Home, which currently has 1.15 million
cable subscribers, is moving on several other fronts to shore up its position for the long
haul. It is readying a rollout of its "Advanced Television" service, affiliating
with mobile wireless-service providers and negotiating with potential suppliers of
wireless local-area-network technology for the home.
Where Advanced TV is concerned, "we're still in
talks with all of the major players, but we don't have anything to announce beyond
the agreement with Cox Communications [Inc.] to test the service in some of its cluster
systems," said an @Home official, speaking on background.
Complicating matters is the fact that different MSOs will
want to pick different content partners when it comes to allowing Web-based providers to
deliver broadband services through advanced set-tops to the TV, the official said.
Officials also said they hoped to announce wireless LAN
deals soon. The idea is to use Excite@Home's purchasing power to drive the costs of
such systems down to where MSOs could offer a home LAN option as an incentive to
subscribers and as a way to connect appliances in future without sending technicians to
install new wiring.