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The company confirmed yesterday that it would release MSN Messenger 5 at the same time MSN 8 becomes available at the end of the year.
MSN Messenger 5 will be available in two versions, one as a standalone product, and a second that integrates features with MSN 8, such as parental controls, said Parul Shah, an MSN product manager.
MSN 8 will feature an e-mail client that Microsoft described as a combination of its free Hotmail e-mail service and its Outlook Express e-mail software. Users will be able to check their mail from a Web browser, as they can with Hotmail, but will also have access to features that come with Outlook Express, such as more advanced spam filtering.
MSN 8 is the upgrade to Microsoft's Internet access software, which allows users to access MSN e-mail accounts, news and entertainment content, and browse the Web. Microsoft will charge customers for the Web software if they subscribe to an Internet service provider other than MSN.
With the launch of MSN 8, Microsoft is boosting the features and services offered to broadband customers, one of which will be free support for setting up and managing home networks, which allow multiple PCs and other devices to be connected to a single broadband line.
Microsoft is offering MSN 8 broadband subscribers 20% off the price of its Broadband Networking Wireless Base Station, a home networking product that allows multiple devices to connect to the Internet over a Wi-Fi, or 802.11b, wireless network.
The base station is one of five home networking hardware products Microsoft unveiled last week. It comes with a built-in hardware firewall and a setup wizard to ease installation.
MSN 8 broadband subscribers in the US will pay between £26 and £32 per month in return for free home networking support, whether or not they purchase Microsoft networking hardware.