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WH Smith teams up with Microsoft, BT for free ISP service

But you'll still have to pay for the books

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WH Smith has signed a deal with BT and Microsoft to create a portal and subscription-free Internet access service but denies it's a knee jerk reaction against Waterstone's entry into the market today. A spokesman for WH Smith commenting on the news that rival bookseller Waterstone's was set to become an ISP told The Register yesterday that its service would still be launched in the spring as planned. He did confirm though that WH Smith's plans -- which are still being kept under wraps -- would be made public later in the spring. And although he said further news was imminent, he didn't say that it would be published within hours of its rival's decision despite the fact the deal was only signed last night. Yesterday, there was suspicion that Waterstone's had brought forward its decision to launch a service to scupper WH Smith's entry into the marketplace. Although vigorously denied by Waterstone's it seem the tables have turned and Waterstone's may just be feeling a little bit peeved that WH Smith's has decided to rain on its parade. Either way, the frenzied activity among UK ISPs today has been without parallel as a succession of companies including Yahoo!, HMV, Electronic Boutique and UK Online have all said they are now offering subscription-free dial-up access to the Internet. As well as becoming an ISP, WH Smith wants to sell books, music and videos on the Internet and take on the big guns of Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com "This venture will not be limited to simply selling books, music and videos on the Internet," said Richard Handover, WH Smith's chief executive, "and will form the basis of a much broader, more innovative and powerful offer." No one from Microsoft or BT was available for comment. ®

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