APPLE COMPUTER INC.'S eWorld online service has remained a sparsely populated corner of cyberspace since its launch in June, 1994. Only 120,000 people have signed up--about two weeks' worth of new recruits for market leader America Online. The company failed to corral technosavvy Mac users, who went directly to the Internet, and never delivered a promised IBM-PC-Windows version of its software. So now, the Cupertino (Calif.) computer maker is folding eWorld and heading for the Internet. Come mid-1996, eWorld will be reborn as a home page on the World Wide Web. "We're moving lock, stock, and barrel straight into the Internet," says Peter Friedman, vice-president for Internet services.
Why forgo the average monthly charges of $20 that Apple now gets from eWorld subscribers? With low subscription revenues, it was not breaking even. But the company figures it can help cement relations with Mac loyalists by giving them a friendly place on the Net instead. "The challenge becomes creating a site with enough personality to keep people coming back," says Friedman.
To lure customers to the eWorld Web site, Apple is developing information aimed at particular groups of customers--home-PC owners, kids, and so on. Advertisers will be able to buy space on the pages.
Having badly muffed its entry into the commercial online world, Apple now predicts that all such services will fall victim to the Net. Friedman figures that with cheap Internet access and new multimedia publishing software, "in 1996 we'll be able to deploy Internet services that equal or surpass what can be done with proprietary services today."