Richard Barry: IT's Like This...

At the New Media Awards in London last week, AOL deservedly got an award for best use of online. It wasn't really in question to be honest: AOL's two leading competitors - CompuServe and the mighty MSN - were absent from the nominations.

I couldn't help wondering why the two pretenders to the online top spot hadn't even made the short list. CompuServe was pretty easy to figure: as Martin Turner, UK MD, pointed out in his interview with me a couple of weeks ago, things ain't been easy for the world's number two. Plus the fact CompuServe now belongs to AOL, it just wouldn't do to go up against its parent.

That leaves Judy Gibbons' bunch. Judy is director of MSN in the UK and she's become rather apt at parrying awkward questions from whipper snapper journalists trying to catch her out. One such question was why Microsoft has completely changed its whole approach to online services and gone as far as renaming MSN, ‘start'. But before I had a chance she nipped in and said: "Micosoft's core strategy - to provide the best online service possible is still our goal