AOL Expands Into Web-Access Kiosks

Since some people still insist on going to stores and other public places to take care of their shopping needs, rather than looking online, one of the nation’s largest portal companies is taking its services where the people are. America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) unveiled a strategic partnership Tuesday with Radiant Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: RADS) to install Internet-access kiosks in brick-and-mortar stores.

Under the multi-year agreement, AOL has agreed to make a strategic investment in Radiant and fund and participate in a new joint venture to develop the kiosks and their content. AOL’s gain is in the added exposure that such kiosks will give its web portal and online service. The pair plans to make e-mail and other information services available around the world in a variety of retail spots.

Radiant develops and markets business management products for point-of-sale retailers, currently supplying gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. As drivers now pay for their gas with a bank debit card at the pump, AOL and Radiant envision them checking their e-mail and the news there in the future. One of the first steps, the companies said, will be integrating AOL Moviefone into Radiant systems to be placed in movie theaters. Moviefone is movie listing and ticketing service available in most major cities.

About Radiant

Radiant looks forward to the added clout a widely established Internet player like AOL brings to the venture, CEO Erez Goren said. The company, based in Atlanta, has been designing electronic information systems since it was founded in 1985 as Softsense Computer Corp. The company got a big boost recently from its involvement in advance ticket sales for the wildly successful new Star Wars movie released early this summer.

Just how much information people want while running errands remains to be seen, however. While services like Moviefone have enjoyed some success in larger metropolitan areas, a test three years ago by a satellite TV company putting CNN on small video screens at selected Shell gas station pumps has failed to launch a news viewing revolution among motorists.

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