Gates to launch MSN 8 in October

Microsoft Corp. will release the anticipated upgrade to its MSN Internet access software on Oct. 24 and charge some users a monthly fee of US$9.95 for it, the company said Tuesday.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, will debut MSN 8 at a launch event to take place in New York's Central Park. The company is planning a marketing campaign in conjunction with the launch that it says will be its biggest ever for MSN, topping the $150 million it spent to market MSN 7, according to Parul Shah, an MSN product manager.

With the upgrade Microsoft for the first time will charge some customers to use the software. Those who purchase Internet access through a service provider other than Microsoft will have to pay $9.95 per month or $79.95 per year for MSN 8.

The monthly fee includes access to services available through the Internet access software, such as photo editing and photo sharing, personal finance services through MSN Money, and a new e-mail service that blends features from Hotmail and its Outlook Express desktop product.

MSN 8 also promises to have more advanced parental control features compared to previous versions. For example, parents will be able to limit who their kids exchange e-mails with or who they chat with over MSN Messenger, Shah said.

MSN 8 will be available for free to subscribers of Microsoft's MSN Internet service, which is available for dial-up and broadband users. MSN Internet service costs $21.95 for dial-up and between $39.95 and $49.95 for broadband, the company said.

The new pricing plan brings the company closer to AOL Time Warner Inc., which charges users for premium services available through America Online. Also similar to AOL, Microsoft will distribute MSN 8 on a free disk, charging users only when they sign up for service.

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