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Mergermania positions AT&T for a very wired future


If you follow the news regarding Internet-related businesses -- especially their mergers and buyouts -- your head is probably spinning at 78 rpm.

AT&T, the nation's largest telecommunications company, announced this week it is buying Telecommunications Inc (TCI), the nation's second-largest cable television company.

The $45 billion deal will create the first full-service telecommunications company, offering cable TV, Internet access and long-distance telephone services. The company plans to expand its own infrastructure for high-speed data communications and long distance telephone services, according to a Reuters story published Thursday.

Long-range plans include using TCI's cable system to offer TV, Internet and local telephone service, though analysts say upgrading many existing cable systems to enable these additional services may take years and a substantial financial commitment. But with AT&T's muscle -- and capital -- such improvements may come sooner than later.

WIN98 ROLLOUT. Windows 98 made its debut without government interference on Thursday -- and while it wasn't as heavily hyped as its predecessor, a number of release parties were held in cities as close as Louisville and Lexington.

Analysts say the release of Windows 98 caused a general decline in computer hardware and software sales.

Many computer buyers delayed their purchases to take advantage of the new operating system; software companies have also been holding back new product introductions until after the official Windows 98 release date. Market research firm PC Data said that computer sales were down in May 8.3 percent, and software sales were down 2 percent.

In other Microsoft news, a U.S. federal appeals court overturned an injunction last week that prevented Microsoft from requiring computer makers that sold Windows 95 to install the Internet Explorer Web browser.

Since Windows 98 replaces Windows 95, the point may be moot, though some legal pundits say the ruling will damage the government's antitrust charges against Microsoft.

PORTAL PARADE. One of the latest buzz words on the Web is "portal" -- a portal being a starting point for using the Internet, like the Yahoo! search site or others like it.

The Walt Disney Co. recently bought the search engine Infoseek, and this week introduced its own "portal," The Disney Internet Guide, or The Dig.

The Dig is a family-friendly search site, with various categories of topics, all organized and easy to use. You won't have to worry about your kids using this site -- all the sites it links to have been reviewed by Dig's editorial staff.

The Dig offers a "Dig This" section that features the editor's top picks, and something unique -- live "tours" of the Web. The tours use Java and frames, so you'll need a browser that supports both.

For more information on The Dig, visit it at www.dig.com.

AltaVista, the former search partner of Yahoo!, is revamping itself to look more and more portal-like with its move to be an all-in-one Web directory and news site.

They've added new content (including a career section),cobranded news from ABCNews.com and online mapping services.

The shift comes after AltaVista's former owner Digital was purchased by Compaq Computers.

See for yourself at www.altavista.digital.com.

STILL THE ONE. Despite rapid advances by Microsoft Corp., Netscape's Navigator Web browsing software remains the leader, according to the latest figures from International Data Corp.

Navigator's market share in 1997 was 50.5 percent, down from 55 percent a year earlier. Microsoft's Internet Explorer was used by 42.8 percent of folks surfing the Web in 1997. America Online's integrated Web browser was third with 3 percent.

Neither Netscape nor Microsoft receive any revenue from their browsers, though more than bragging rights are at stake here.

As a users' "windows on the Web" -- and hopefully electronic commerce in the future -- the choice of Web browser may help spur sales of enterprise applications and software packages.

WIN98 REACTION. Did you stand in line to get your copy of Windows 98? If you upgraded, what's your opinion of the new operating system? Or are you waiting to upgrade when you buy your next computer? E-mail your comments on Windows 98 to the address below, and let me know your views.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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