Interview: CompuServe's Alan Scott embraces the Net

With CompuServe due to ramp up its Internet presence next month on the back of a new release of a new front-end code-named Red Dog, PCDN spoke to UK channel development group manager, Alan Scott.

PCDN: What's the release name and schedule for Red Dog?

We're going to call it CompuServe 3.0; the WinCIM name has been pensioned off. We hope to have it physically out to our customers on CD-ROM by November and it'll go into Windows 95 but if it's downloadable from the US in mid-September, we'll have the UK English version here by October. Some people won't want to wait and will take the US version which is fine and no problem.

If it's anything like the size of Internet Explorer [5.8Mb] maybe they'll wait for the disk...

We'll it's 7Mb so maybe you're right.

What are the key features for you?

One of the highlights would be multitasking under Windows 95. You can be downloading from a forum at the same time as you're in Chat (the new name for the CB talk function in CompuServe), reading mail and visiting a Web site.

Everybody's talking about the Web spelling the end of online services; what's your take on it?

Our difference is adding value. There's some great stuff on the Internet but unless the people providing it are making money, it'll just be a load of ads. By charging our £6.50 per month we're providing access to the best Web sites, paying people's toll on the Internet. At the moment there aren't many people who charge for access but people will have to make money. The last thing you want as a user is to pay 50 pence or £1 every time you visit, so we'll do the deals with Time-Warner or whoever, you type in your password, and [the site] will recognise you as a CompuServe member. It's helping content providers to put valuable stuff up on the Internet.

So it's the deal-making that's the added value?

Not just that. We're going to make it easier for people to find their way on the Internet and to find content on the Internet. We'll not be creating our own search engine but we'll be using our own tools. At the moment it's Yahoo!

But everybody is trying to cut deals with the same people...

Well, we have 400,000 users in the UK and our nearest rival may have 40-50,000 users so we'll be able to make the best deals.

Will you be developing more CompuServe-specific content?

At the moment all of our stuff like What's On and the Good Pub Guide is being turned into HTML for the Internet and all the time we're adding more. Recently we've added banking with the TSB and we hope to extend that to new banks by the spring.. We want more home shopping and we'll have grocery shopping by the end of the year. We're adding entertainment. I wouldn't be surprised for instance if you saw Uri Geller doing live experiments over CompuServe.

So CompuServe won't be doing a disappearing act?

[laughs] As long as [Geller] doesn't bend my modem! But really we feel we're pioneering in the UK. It's certainly a challenge but we feel that the future is very rosy.

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