Pointy clicky pretty. I'm in interface-design mode again. So I installed the new version of MSN Explorer just to see what those powers that be were coming up with to compete with AOL. It's rather beautiful from a consumer-y design point of view (screenshot). It's obviously not a browser for sophisticated users, but it doesn't want to be. It wants to be AOL. And, I think, it's probably quite easy to use—as long as you don't mind believing the web == MSN.

Notice how, super-imposed on the top-left logo, is a graphic representing the current weather in your area. Nice touch. Also, it speaks: Good morning/afternoon when you fire it up, and goodbye when you leave. I don't know that's it's particular great to put that much color and pizazz into an interface that wraps around whole web sites that will have their own design, which may clash horribly and be a bit overwhelming. Of course, maybe that's part of the strategy—MSN sites will be designed to look good inside (though most of them don't yet), making them more attractive. Another thing: Notice the address bar is not a drop-down list to get to recently entered addresses. Man, I use that thing all the time, and it's hard to imagine it's a hinderance for non-techies, so taking it out was an ease-of-use feature. I hate for all my assumptions to be cynical, but is it another ploy to keep you within the MSN pen? (And no, you can't change your home page from MSN.com)