I have an account with AOL. They don't have the best price. They have average service at best. I hardly ever use AOL specific features. Then why do I use AOL. Because when I decided to go on-line, I had several AOL CD's & diskettes that I recieved in the mail screaming at me with free hours, instant access and idiot-proof software. (I even recieved an AOL CD from my Brokerage Co. !!)
Sure the sofisticated computer user can subscribe to any number of cheaper and faster services. In the Washington DC area, prices range from 7.95 - 15.95. However, most require payment of 1-3 yrs in advance, and you have to take your computer to them to have them install the software. (EROLS will come to your house). AOL makes it to easy. Not better, but easier. It is this level of ease and comfort that is most appealing to novice computer users.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a die-hard AOL'er. I bought FEB100 calls at the open this morning and sold them this afternoon, and am now considering the fEB110 puts. I'm just daytrading for fun. I don't care which way the stock goes. But I spent 15 yrs in retail and the product that sells the most is not always the best product on the market. Remember Beta VCR's. Smaller tapes, better picture and sound quality AND came out with stereo format first!
Terms like T3, T1, X2, and intranet and hi-speed access that you normally see in the ads of the lower price service providers may intimidate many looking to go on-line for the first time. AOL says, put in this disk or CD, and be on-line NOW!
By the way, I've sold computers since 1980, so I have some idea as to the new users perspective and how intimidated many new computer buyers are.