AOL Client 9: Feels like CitySearch

AOL Client 9: Feels like CitySearch
As most of you know, AOL upgrades and releases a new client once a year. Last October, it was AOL 8.0, which offered much improved mail functionality, a new look and feel on the Welcome Screen, and a much strong integration of tools such as You’ve Got Pictures, Radio and the IM/Buddy tools such as Expressions.
AOL does updates to its clients throughout the year as well, (viz the new Broadband client release this April), but the big thing is the annual “new” client.
So AOL 9.0 is scheduled for sometime this Fall, and pictures and designs are starting to leak across the web as beat testing rolls out.
There’s a whole set of screen shots at Neowin.
Some comments on 9.0 changes as represented by these screens:
1) Information management–New emphasis on suitcase and my stuff: Two items on the very top suggest AOL is going to integrate more with desktop tools and information management–a File command on far left, and as little suitcase icon at far right.
2) Downplaying channel content–No more channel bar on Welcome Screen. Does anyone go to all that content buried in the bar? AOLers have long discussed whether the real estate and the click-through for the left nav mar are merited–guess the answer is in these 9.0 designs.
3) Continued broadband strip below for those who don’t have broadband client–that hasn’t changed much.
4) AOL Dashboard replacing channel strip–Like the current AOL IM/Mail tool, this object can open and close, collapsing on command. What does it do? Weather, money, radio search and dictionary reference are the highlights.
5) Refreshing tabs and expanded views. Right now the Welcome Screen has little buttons you click to see new current features and news. This new design allows you to use a tab to refresh the view. Tabs suggested a focus on younger audience/premium content/key demographic groups. A tabbed series right down by the promos offers Music Sports Teen People(this is the teen channel now) Customize. Note that all these categories appeal to the 13-25 demographic, and that they are all key categories to offer upsells in the form of premium services. Further, the Customize tab suggests that AOL will be able to go beyond the current capability it has in 8.0 to offer users the chance to select one of 8 screens and allow users to switch some components in and out–adding some of the capabilities of My AOL and My Netscape to the main screen. (Yes, it’s like RSS in a way).
Finally, doesn’t the whole thing look a lot like Citysearch? Lots of commerce and transaction services, plus community?