AOL runs Microsoft ploy

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AOL Time Warner is stealing a page from Microsoft Corp.'s playbook, seeking sweetheart deals with computer makers to target consumers with pitches that would help AOL grab more of the computer desktop market, The Washington Post reports.

In internal AOL documents, the media giant has reporedtly plotted a strategy for PC makers to display icons, pop-up notices and other consumer messages aimed at giving AOL's products prominent placement over Microsoft's software. AOL particularly wants manufacturers to give its software for online access greater prominence than Microsoft's MSN service - and is reportely paying them a bounty of about $35 for each customer they nab for AOL's massive Internet access service. AOL also is seeking to give an advantage to Netscape, its own Web browser, and to AIM, its instant-messaging service.

AOL is trying to broker the deals in time for the October debut of Windows XP, the latest update of Microsoft's operating system, the documents show. AOL began pushing the strategy about the same time a federal court ruled that Microsoft had abused its Windows monopoly. Under legal pressure, Microsoft said on July 11 that it would give computer makers more flexibility in placing icons on the desktop.

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