AOL gets personal, chases UK growth

AOL settles in for another eyeball battle and sends out scouts, dressed as medics

AOL has signed a deal with the UK's premier home PC installation company in a move to increase its market share in the UK.

Protea will carry only AOL 5.0 ISP software when installing PCs in consumers' homes and will recommend and install AOL when asked for advice on choosing an Internet service provider.

Protea reckons it will send out service people to around 120,000 homes during the next 12 months. Although the company does not have a contract with the Dixons Group, the UK's largest supplier of consumer PCs, it does provide installation services for major retailers such as Tesco, John Lewis, and manufacturers such as Fujitsu and Gateway.

While Protea would not advise customers to replace a manufacturer's own ISP, such as, with AOL, "if they ask for another choice we would recommend AOL," said Protea managing director Chris Varley. If a customer presses Protea to recommend an ISP over AOL the company will suggest Netscape Online, AOL's free ISP.

Adam Daum, senior consultant at industry analyst GartnerGroup, reckons AOL is taking the battle to other British ISPs.He points out that "if someone is so distraught that they have to call someone out they will more than likely accept the recommendation [to sign up with AOL]."

AOL was unavailable for comment.