Microsoft targets broadband users with MSN 9

Microsoft is working on an update to its MSN 8 internet software subscription product, which is due to be released before the end...

Microsoft is working on an update to its MSN 8 internet software subscription product, which is due to be released before the end of this year.

The product, which Microsoft internally refers to as MSN Premium or MSN 9, will target broadband Internet users.

Microsoft sells MSN 8 in a handful of countries, including the UK, Spain, Canada, Japan and the US. US users pay $9.95 a month or $79.95 a year, getting spam and virus protection on e-mail, parental controls and online bill paying.

"MSN 9 will be our first global presence subscription service," said Lisa Gurry, group product manager for MSN.

New features will include a pop-up ad blocker, improved picture sharing as part of MSN Messenger and a tool called the Outlook Connector that will make an Outlook e-mail client work with MSN e-mail and corporate e-mail systems, allowing users to view their various in-boxes in one client and combine and share calendars.

Microsoft partners with broadband access providers to deliver MSN Internet Software, but also sells the product direct. This latest model, called "bring your own access", is increasingly important for Microsoft and its chief rival America Online as more and more users switch to broadband.

MSN has claimed it has 8.6 million subscribers, the bulk of which are US dial-up Internet access customers. "Over time we will see that shift and the largest bucket will be our premium service customers," Gurry said.

Existing premium MSN services include Hotmail Extra Storage, which it sells for $19.95 a year in the US and gives Hotmail users 10Mbytes of e-mail storage space.

Microsoft is also considering launching an online music service to rival Apple Computer's iTunes.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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