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AOLOS - America Online Operating System

By DaSyonic in MLP
Mon May 21, 2001 at 08:41:48 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

America Online is considering making an OS. According to a memo they plan to do this to compete with Microsoft Windows XP. Would any OEMs go for this? AOL thinks so: A number of OEM's have expressed concern regarding MS's intention to modify the OS in a manner that eliminates the OEM's ability to effectively monitize the Desktop.

And one dangerous thing AOL is considering:

6) Stall XP Adoption: Until AOL can develop an appropriate XP solution, message to AOL members and the public that XP is "not ready" for broad adoption (i.e., has bugs, will not run AOL, will not run your existing software, will violate your online privacy, etc...)

It's one thing to make a better product, but quite another to get everyone to hold off adoption by spreading rumours.


Voxel dot net
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Should AOL make an Operating System?
o Yes, I would use it. 1%
o Yes, But I wouldnt use it 24%
o I dont care either way. 21%
o No, A seperate OS is not the answer. 7%
o AOL is evil. 30%
o Linux is the only choice. 13%

Votes: 133
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o making an OS.
o memo
o Also by DaSyonic

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AOLOS - America Online Operating System | 34 comments (33 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
A memo doesn't mean anything (4.16 / 12) (#1)
by khallow on Sat May 19, 2001 at 12:44:20 AM EST

Frankly, I'm not too confident in this rumor. A memo just means some guy (possibly in AOL) is thinking about this. The only options I can see are that AOL goes with Linux, FreeBSD, or some other open source OS. Particularly given the XP timeline. OTOH, all they have to do is buy one of several startups and they automatically have an OS.

As far as spreading FUD about Windows XP, turnaround is fair play particularly if the FUD is true.

Finally, I wonder if the leak came from Netscape. They seem to be particularly out of step with the brass which is too bad. That's one of the most interesting parts of the company. Shrug.

Beos (3.55 / 9) (#2)
by John Milton on Sat May 19, 2001 at 12:46:59 AM EST

Beos would be the best candidate considering the market aol aims at, but try getting them to sell at a reasonable price.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Last I heard they were desperate for money... (3.80 / 5) (#8)
by brion on Sat May 19, 2001 at 04:16:44 AM EST

I'd expect Be would be happy to sell to anyone at the drop of a hat to stay in business.

According to their Quarter 1 report, they're hoping to reduce their rate of hemorrhage to $1.5 million per month through layoffs, restructurings, and hoping real hard that their internet appliance deal with Sony goes somewhere...

I bought an earlier version of BeOS and thought it was cute as all heck, but A) lacked the driver and application support of Linux and B) had a fixed logical screen resolution of about 72dpi, which made all the text too dang small for my taste. (Yeah yeah, stupid reason to choose an OS, honest it was the drivers more than that!) I might toss it on again for fun, but the overhanging shadow of doom attached to the company discourages me from making a long-term commitment to an sourceless OS.

That said, if AOL bought them and/or infused them with mad cash, it might revitalize the company and the OS, which would be good!

Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
It was a great os (3.20 / 5) (#13)
by John Milton on Sat May 19, 2001 at 04:36:41 PM EST

I bought a copy of the 4.5 version. It was awesome technology. Quick as lightning, and it actually knew which graphics card I was using with no configuration. I'd been having trouble with that in linux. You're right though. No sense throwing money into a sinking ship. If they hadn't spurned the developer community, perhaps they would have made it.

As it stands, a buyout by aol is the only thing that would bring them back to life. All the GPL/Open Source developers are sticking to linux and bsd no matter what. There's no way any of them are going to write software for a closed os. Also, be has admitted that they can never open the source because of non-disclosure agreements. If any closed os is going to survive, it's going to need big commercial support.

If I didn't know aol's penchant for closed standards, I'd suggest Atheos. It's a lot like beos and is GPLed. It's pretty well developed. Not incomplete like most alternate os. Another good choice would be to buy OS/2 from IBM. As I understand it, it has support for 16 bit windows apps. That would be a good advantage to have.

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

[ Parent ]
Check those URLs! Don't forget the http://! (3.33 / 3) (#15)
by sigwinch on Sat May 19, 2001 at 07:11:25 PM EST

Should be http://www.atheos.cx/, of course.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Reason to choose an OS (3.00 / 3) (#18)
by davidduncanscott on Sun May 20, 2001 at 06:25:26 PM EST

which made all the text too dang small for my taste
Doesn't sound like a stupid reason to me. If the screen is uncomfortable, the computer's going to be hard to work with. You don't need excuses.

Remember, you deserve a OS you like, because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!

[ Parent ]

memos include far-out ideas (4.09 / 11) (#3)
by rebelcool on Sat May 19, 2001 at 01:44:36 AM EST

heh, you should see the memos i get. Of course, they're just ideas. All in all, I would take this with one very big grain of salt.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

My god... (3.54 / 11) (#4)
by Elendale on Sat May 19, 2001 at 01:55:33 AM EST

<annoying teacher voice>Now now class, lets settle down. AOL, you play nice now. And Microsoft: no more smashing other people's toys, ok? Good. Now lets all take a nap.</voice>

Some days it just feels like that...


When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

AOL/XP (3.76 / 13) (#5)
by Delirium on Sat May 19, 2001 at 02:21:50 AM EST

6) Stall XP Adoption: Until AOL can develop an appropriate XP solution, message to AOL members and the public that XP is "not ready" for broad adoption

While this certainly seems like an underhanded policy of "spreading rumors," if you look at the suggestions they're all pretty much rooted in fact:

(i.e., has bugs,

Well, this will clearly be the case.

will not run AOL,

Since this is the entire reason they want to stall adoption of XP, I assume it'll be quite true.

will not run your existing software,

I'm not sure about this one. Anybody know what backwards-compatibility of XP will be like? I hear they're removing the DOS compatibility layer, which will break a decent chunk of things...

will violate your online privacy, etc...)

That's certainly possible as well, with a lot of the copy-protection schemes I've been hearing in relation to XP.

Anyway, it's important to note that this is just a leaked memo with one executive's strategic ideas, not official AOL policy or necessarily a reflection of what they're actually doing.

Read this somewhere on msdn (3.75 / 4) (#11)
by psctsh on Sat May 19, 2001 at 02:40:35 PM EST

If I recall correctly, XP is supposed to provide good software compatibility--it can keep different versions of the same .dll on the system, so older programs won't die out when newer .dll's come along. Not that I've really had too many problems with this myself, but apparently people do.

As a side note, when I went looking for the article that had this information (I read it a couple months ago when I was looking up something job related on msdn), I couldn't find it, but I did find this. Which is really, really sad (Yes, I'm talking about the timer).

Oh yeah, and one last thing, has anyone noticed that viewing the microsoft site on a nonmicrosoft browser makes most of the text miniscule? It's rather annoying...

[ Parent ]
Oh yeah, (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by psctsh on Sat May 19, 2001 at 02:42:39 PM EST

Replace "software compatiblity" with "windows software compatibility." I have no doubt that unless aol sabotages their program, it will run fine under xp.

[ Parent ]
Strategy Memo only (4.40 / 5) (#14)
by IntlHarvester on Sat May 19, 2001 at 05:32:20 PM EST

The supposed AOL memo is from a marketing guy who is suggesting a bunch of strategies they *could* take, probably off the top of his head. There's no evidence that they are actually actively planning a anti-XP FUD campaign (which given the OEM situation, they would likely lose).

From what I can tell from the screenshots, MS is moving all sorts of MSN links ("Buy Music") into the default Windows UI. Shades of Windows 95, and a serious concern for AOL and any other net retailer or provider, obviously.

(XP, BTW will supposedly have the best DOS compatibility of any version of NT. SoundBlaster and VESA emulation is planned, for example. The existing NTVDM is basically old OS/2 1.x stuff and runs very few games. What's being dropped is DOS itself, as in the bootstrapper for Windows 9x.)

[ Parent ]
xp (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by Sikpup on Sat May 19, 2001 at 08:19:31 PM EST

I haven't played with it too much, due to a lack of anti-virus software. Everything else seems to work fine so far - a least no worse than any other version of windows..

[ Parent ]
let me get this straight.. (3.16 / 12) (#6)
by chuqui on Sat May 19, 2001 at 02:29:27 AM EST

you seem to be upset that AOL is going to try to do to Microsoft what Microsoft has done to everyone within reach?

-- Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com> <kuro@chuqui.com> "The first rule of holes: If you are in one, stop digging"
d00d! AOL OS would ROCK! (3.85 / 20) (#7)
by MoxFulder on Sat May 19, 2001 at 04:10:09 AM EST

I think AOL OS would be the coolest thing ever. It would be soooooooo much better than just Instant Messenger ... and then I could get rid of this Penguin Thingy too!!!!!! I imagine AOL would keep track of all my data for me, so I wouldn't have to do it...

With AOL OS if my scrolling buddy ticker disappeared I would know how to get it back, and all those flashy ad windows too. I'll bet my desktop background would be a big AOL ad. Ha ha, wouldn't that be cool?

Now maybe they would put colorful oversized search buttons all over the screen and make them permanently linked to aol.com. That would be awesome!!!! I'll bet I could get so much work done with AOL OS ... I can't wait to port GCC to it!

"If good things lasted forever, would we realize how special they are?"
--Calvin and Hobbes

Um, monkey says what? (3.90 / 10) (#9)
by ZanThrax on Sat May 19, 2001 at 07:31:49 AM EST

eliminates the OEM's ability to effectively monitize the Desktop

Well, I think we can all agree that preventing OEM's from doing something which isn't even a word is bad, can't we? I want to know which OEM's are concerned about their ability to monetize the desktop, so that I can mock them specifically, rather than just in a general sense.

You sir, duckspeak double-plusgood.

This Could Actually Be Supercool (3.14 / 7) (#17)
by moshez on Sun May 20, 2001 at 04:06:29 AM EST

Considering that most probably AOL has very little time, having AOL-Linux which would have KDE or GNOME (including Konqueror or Mozilla) on top of any of the free unices (Linux or one of the *BSD) and which would be installed by OEMs (removing all the Linux-is-oh-so-hard-to-install FUD) sounds pretty cool. They could start with Mandrake, Progeny Debian or some such, or just use their own packages.

I've always thought AOL is a natural partner for the free software community, since much like hardware vendors, AOL needs software developed, but doesn't make any money out of its software.

[T]he k5 troll HOWTO has been updated ... This update is dedicated to moshez, and other bitter anti-trolls.

It's beginning? (4.25 / 4) (#19)
by Surial on Mon May 21, 2001 at 05:12:59 AM EST

There's an old adage...

Be wary of killing the dictator, for oft a larger evil will take his(m/v) place.

You can sort-of apply this to businesses too.

If microsoft dissappears by force (somebody blows up Redmond, or it gets destroyed by a forced split-up or other, similar legislature), I believe some other company will successfully rise to the occasion and use Microsoft tactics (FUD, embrace-and-extend, aggressive vertical expansion tactics).

I've been fingering AOL/Time Warner for this.

Call me paranoid, but if they really go ahead and make an OS, well, they are all set to take over if Microsoft is toppled. And I fear that day...
"is a signature" is a signature.

Don't give them too much credit... (3.80 / 5) (#20)
by minusp on Mon May 21, 2001 at 08:06:49 AM EST

Any OS to come from AOL/TimeWarner/Bertelsmann/etc would more than likely not actually do anything BUT AOL/TimeW...
Have any of you done an AOL intall lately? It is HUGE and gets into EVERYTHING already. Extend AOL with a bit of OS-like features (print, file utilities, TCP/IP) and there you go.
The vast majority of (at least USian) home computers would have no net change in usage.
Umm... excpt for the ones that came with the 2 years of MSN "rebate."

Remember, regime change begins at home.
Could Compete, But Not A Good Thing (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by mattyb77 on Mon May 21, 2001 at 11:19:50 AM EST

To extend what you're saying, I think that if AOL were to put out their own operating system that potentially gave Microsoft a run for their money, what in the end would make them and their behavior any different from Microsoft?

But truthfully, I think it is simply going to be a bunch of FUD on AOL's part to prevent the spread of Windows XP.

"I bestow upon myself the `Doctorate of Cubicism', for educators are ignorant of Nature's Harmonic Time Cube Principle and cannot bestow the prestigious honor of wisdom upon the wisest human ever." -- Gene Ray, the wisest human ever
[ Parent ]
Some is already there (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Mon May 21, 2001 at 09:28:05 PM EST

AOL has had its own TCP/IP stack for quite some time. It's always caused nothing but trouble for people who have both a real ISP and AOL (and of course, there was the whole recent debacle with AOL 5 not properly uninstalling its TCP/IP). It's always needed its own TCP/IP stack to deal with the funky-ass proprietary IP-over-AOL tunneling crap that AOL does to try to make themselves look like an ISP.

Also, AOL used to actually be its own OS, back when it was on the C64 and was called Q-Link. It wouldn't be too farfetched to see them returning to their roots. :)

An AOL OS would be a pretty trivial thing, really; All they'd really need is some sort of compatability layer to use Windows drivers (so they can support winmodems, various graphics cards, printers, etc.) and a very basic kernel. Maybe they could go back to using the PC/GEOS kernel like they did back in the early AOL for DOS days. It had a (by today's standards) rudimentary scheduler with preemptive multitasking, and its interface was actually quite elegant, considering it was a PC adaptation of a Commodore environment which was superficially similar to the original Macintosh.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Yes but, (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by odaiwai on Tue May 22, 2001 at 02:05:38 AM EST

Are AOL users going to tolerate having a new OS installed on your PC without being asked about it? What about running Office anymore? Or any games that were installed?

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
That's a bit paranoid (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:25:06 PM EST

First, you're assuming that AOL would force their users to install the OS, or wouldn't ask, or whatever. My guess would be that AOLOS (if it even existed) would be an option or would be preloaded on AOL-discounted OEM computers or the like.

Second, you're assuming too much about what the typical AOL user uses their computer for. Most of them use their computer for just AOL, and many of them think that WordPad is too complicated of a word processor.

Finally, you're forgetting that Sun (who is an AOL partner, after all) would probably port StarOffice to it right away, and StarOffice is more Word-compatible than Word itself these days, so AOLOS users would most likely have a better office suite experience than their poor Windows-using brethren, without losing out on the compatability (at least, not in terms of Office).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

paranoid? but they are out to get me! (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by odaiwai on Tue May 22, 2001 at 10:04:08 PM EST

Previous AOL CDs have reputations for installing stuff all over the place and deleting things without asking.

If AOL say that the only waay to use their system is to use AOLOS, then people will install it because they don;t know any better.

How do you know what AOLers also use their computers for? It seems like a large stretch to say that the never have anything else on there. It seems quite likely to me that a computer as entertainment device would have games on it. What do you do with people who've bought games which they can't use anymore because AOLOS can't run them.

As for the Office thing, I meant pre-existing applications in general, not just Word and Excel.

Do you think StarOffice is going to be used by people who use Word/Excel at work? I don't. They'll bleat and moan about "standard applications not working".

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
But um... (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 22, 2001 at 11:08:11 PM EST

See, adding and removing parts of Windows is one thing. Changing the entire operating system out from them? That's a whole other kettle of fish, man. I doubt that AOL would open themselves up to a whole world of hurt (in the form of lawsuits) if they did that in the only way which can be automatically done - reformatting the entire hard drive.

Microsoft Office, StarOffice... they sound the same, don't they? People won't generally notice.

"Pre-existing applications in general" - what do you mean by that? Solitaire? Minesweeper? Notepad? Very easy to replace. What other things are standard on Windows machines these days? AIM? Yeah, like AOLOS wouldn't come with that.

Also, if AOLOS had the driver-level compatability stuff, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to see them as having software-level compatability as well. And if it were done as an OEM-preloaded thing as I suggested before, there wouldn't be any installed applications to lose to begin with.

And finally, this is all based on speculation based on one random memo. I think people (myself included) are taking this way too seriously.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Yep, I agree. (none / 0) (#30)
by odaiwai on Wed May 23, 2001 at 04:04:25 AM EST

Yep, I think it's quite unlikely that they'd change the whole operating system. As you said, lawsuits.
As for pre-existing software: games, diet programs, palm link, prayer times, etc the usual little applications people accumulate over time.
And given AOL's market, the only way they could get away with supplying a complete OS based around their service would be to sell a PC which has AOLOS pre-installed.
That would be quite an elegant solution, as you could sell something with a webTV-style 'plug the box in and go' approach but with the flexibility and stability of a PC running Linux (or maybe a BSD).
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Um (none / 0) (#31)
by fluffy grue on Wed May 23, 2001 at 11:54:40 AM EST

Isn't that what I've been saying? AOLOS would most likely be sold as an OEM/preloaded thing... and hopefully nothing would stop other application writers (the aftermarket applications, which you've been calling "pre-existing applications" when that implies that they're applications which people already have as part of Windows) from porting to AOLOS if they saw enough of a market for it.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

just a clarification (none / 0) (#32)
by odaiwai on Thu May 24, 2001 at 02:03:06 AM EST

By 'pre-existing applications' I meant those apps which users had installed before installing AOL. Not necessarily part of the OS, or installed with it. I don;t think anyone would be happy if upgrading one program meant losing all the others.
And yes, of course there's nothing to stop anyone porting an app to AOLOS, but will your average AOLer be happy that none of the games or whatever they've currently got can be installed on their AOL box? Not everyone has (or wants) multiple computers in the home.
-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Right, and? (none / 0) (#33)
by fluffy grue on Thu May 24, 2001 at 12:35:38 PM EST

With an OEM installation on a new computer, the user wouldn't have any "pre-existing applications." Also, I highly doubt that anyone with a computer already would buy a new computer just for the latest version of AOL; it'd be easier for them to just not upgrade to Windows XP.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

...and (none / 0) (#34)
by odaiwai on Thu May 24, 2001 at 11:58:01 PM EST

(i'm not used to holding conversations over several days...)

Yes, you're right and I think we're both saying the same thing here:
AOL can't produce an 'Upgrade' CD which installs AOLOS over everything else but they can produce a 'New Install' CD or a preinstalled box.

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
do it (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by daevt on Tue May 22, 2001 at 10:07:22 AM EST

when it come to software development, the more the merrier. if AOL built a modern OS, it might have features which are actually new and interesting that other OS could use in future releases. the more people/multi-nation-corporations we get developing software and specifically operating systems, the more quickly we will see thing such as UI and actual inovation progress; I welcome AOL's contribution to the world of operating systems, and hope that they make a full-featured, and functionally advanced OS.
but what about the PS2... (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by dbarker on Tue May 22, 2001 at 12:44:21 PM EST

It just occurred to me that if AOL is planning on providing the PS2 with net access, what exactly would all that entail? Would it include things like porting Netscape to the PS2 along with other toys or just providing modem racks/other network "stuff" for Sony to use?...

If they're turning into PS2 developers as well, maybe the idea of writting/buyying an OS for it to all run on doesn't seem quite so far-fetched. It could also make it easier for them to port all their software (e.g. AIM) to other OS's by creating some sort of .NET alternative virtual machine - the AOLMachine so to speak ;) thus providing an alternative to MS OS's, .NET, Sun's Java, etc...

Anyway, enough of my incoherent ramblings...

Dave :)
Does anybody remember... (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by cr0sh on Tue May 22, 2001 at 03:33:56 PM EST

WebOS (I believe that was what it was called)?

WebOS was an "operating system", created a few years ago that worked totally within a web browser. It used a ton of Javascript (and probably a little CGI) to accomplish what it did (which wasn't much, admittedly, but showed a spark of promise).

Later, another web based OS sprung up - IIRC, this one used Java, but still operated within the browser.

What I want to know: What happened to these efforts? What became of the people involved? Where did the "operating systems" go (ie, the software - lost to time)?

More importantly: Could either of these "operating systems" have become an actual product? What if married to *nix on the backend? After all, isn't that what the .NET strategy is really about? Plus, with broadband being more ubiquitous than it was when these prototypes were floating about, could such a system work better for certain tasks (I remember how slow they were on my 28.8)?

Just curious...

AOLOS - America Online Operating System | 34 comments (33 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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