AOL UK is developing a Mac OS X 10.1 (and above) client, the company told Macworld UK today.

The surprise announcement is a change of heart on behalf of the company, which suspended development of its Mac OS X client in November 2001, explaining that it could not justify the development expense at that time. The company said it would continue to monitor the market.

Why the change of heart? Matt Peacock, chief communications officer at AOL UK, explained: “We said we'd watch the market - and it's moved. Mac OS X is taking off, it's moving very quickly through Apple's user base. It's happened.”

AOL confident of OS X A note to be distributed to AOL's Mac members says: “We would like to thank you for your continued support and patience over recent months. We have examined the UK market very carefully, and now feel confident about the business case for this new software as more and more Macintosh users in the UK move across to OS X.”

AOL UK will open up the beta-testing programme to existing Mac-using AOL customers “in the next two weeks”, Peacock explained.

Describing the new client, he said: “It's a completely different build - it even differs from the US build with brand new functions built-in.” The client fully implements Apple's Aqua interface for its UI, and initial lab reports claim it “sits perfectly” on a Mac OS X desktop.

“The email and instant messaging features have been completely rebuilt. There's a new address book, and an entirely new look-&-feel. We've completely redesigned the Welcome screen”.

Peacock discussed new, Mac-only features being developed for this release. “Favourites are host-based, so it's possible for Mac OS X users to access their Favourites from any computer. The Address Book is also host-based,” he said.

Both features have been developed in response to user requests, he explained.

Peacock said: “AOL UK is as happy about this decision as it hopes Macintosh users will be”.