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Steve Jobs has been telling people for almost two years that i is for Internet . And with the launch of the new iTools features on the Apple Web site and a multimillion-dollar deal with EarthLink, Apple seems to be remaking itself as a company that can compete in every arena of the computer market–in hardware, software, and Web services and as an Internet service provider.

Take Apple's $200 million investment in EarthLink. Under the terms of the multiyear deal, EarthLink becomes the default ISP for every new Mac. Apple, in turn, profits from every new EarthLink Mac customer and gets a seat on the company's board of directors. The deal aims to boost Apple's income while giving Mac users a streamlined service that offers Mac-friendly tech support.

Disk Driver

At the crux of Apple's Internet strategy are the new iTools announced by Jobs. Besides the Internet screening tool, KidSafe, there's iDisk, which gives Mac OS 9 users 20MB of free storage on Apple's secure servers. iDisk works with OS 9 to let users transfer files among Macs or share documents with drag-and-drop simplicity. That feature resembles the free storage services from and

The iDisk service also lets Apple enter the free-home-page market, which companies such as Geocities and Tripod currently dominate. With Apple's HomePage iTool, users can choose from several templates for setting up basic Web sites. Users can also create sites in other programs and place them in a public folder.

Macintosh Mail?

Apple's fourth iTool offers free e-mail accounts through the domain. However, the service does not compete with other free e-mail offerings such as Microsoft's Hotmail, because is not a Web-based program. Users have to check their e-mail through a third-party program such as Microsoft Outlook Express or Qualcomm's Eudora.

Because these iTools are available only to Mac OS 9 users, one goal of Apple's Internet strategy may be to give users of older operating systems a reason to upgrade. Mac OS 9 costs $99.

Apple's Internet strategy also includes iCards, the company's answer to the Blue Mountain Arts greeting-card site. iCards allows all Web surfers–including Windows users–to send e-mail greeting cards that appear within recipients' mailboxes rather than at separate URLs. Users can adorn their iCards with everything from Monet and Degas artwork to pictures from Apple's "Think Different" ad campaign.

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