by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc..
Apple last month moved closer to a plan for a worldwide online service by introducing eWorld in the United Kingdom. So far, the eWorld system includes eWorld for Macintosh, with an "online town square" metaphor, and the company's NewtonMail service. A Windows eWorld client is still in the works.
New U.K. eWorld members who register before 15-Feb-95 may take advantage of Apple's introductory trial offer, which consists of a $26 credit (covering two hours of free online time) and a waiver of the first $8.95 monthly fee. Standard charges will include a monthly subscription fee of $8.95, $7.95 for each of the first two hours used in a month, and $12.90 per hour after the first two each month, in one minute increments. Apple plans to bill charges in U.S. dollars. Subscribers' credit card companies will convert the charges to local currency.
Apple is often taken to task for an incomplete approach to localization of products and services. In this case, while there is still no true worldwide support, the company seems well on its way to at least providing local eWorld services in the United Kingdom. Users may access eWorld through a network of local access numbers within the U.K., much as they do in the U.S. (We can only assume that U.K. users on holiday in the States, and vice-versa, will be able to use local numbers.) Further, Apple is providing a toll-free eWorld support line within the U.K. for new member enquiries and user assistance. We do hope the company will consider arranging a more localized billing approach for other markets. As things stand now, users must commit to a monthly fee and hourly connect rate that may vary wildly to their perspectives, depending on the vagaries of the currency markets.
The press has complained about eWorld's general lack of substance so far; threaded discussion areas are numerous, but in many cases are not particularly active. Third-party support forums and Apple support forums are likely to form the core of any potential eWorld popularity, and we believe that rapid completion of these areas is critical if Apple wishes to retain customers' interest. Towards that end, Apple has now brought "more than 140 publishing partners" into the service, offering a wide variety of information resources. Beyond computer-related information eWorld now offers such resources as world news, business, entertainment, travel information, and online reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.
Apple's hope is that the "town square" metaphor, which includes such buildings as a Post Office, Learning Centre, Business Center, and an Information Booth, will put prospective users at ease. The interface does not differ in any tremendous technological way from that of America Online, but the more relaxed visual approach may help.
Interested Macintosh users may call one of the eWorld support lines to request a free user kit.
eWorld -- 0800 896206 (U.K.) -- 800/775-4556 (U.S.)