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MS to charge for MSN 8 browser – msn.co.uk for chop?

Seems to be losing interest in the things MSN UK does

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Microsoft is to charge for MSN 8.0, one way or another, and that kind of completes the circle, doesn't it? Giving away the browser for free unleashed many demons, not least of them the Four Attorneys of the Apocalypse, but now you'll either get MSN 8.0 bundled with MSN Internet access or, if you don't have an MSN sub, you'll have to pay if you want it.

So what's Microsoft up to here? There are possible legal aspects to it, but the announcement pitches the software rather interestingly. The company will be majoring on parental controls, including email blocking, activity reports and site blocking. It'll also include antivirus software and a firewall, and junk mail tools.

On top of this we have "value-added applications that have not been available from an ISP previously. MSN 8 will offer Microsoft-exclusive content and tools for managing personal finances from MSN Money Plus and editing and sharing photos from MSN Photo Plus, as well as exclusive multimedia content and learning and research materials from MSN Learning & Research Plus."

So it's to be sold to parents as a safe way for their kids to surf, and it's to be linked into other Microsoft apps and services, the idea here presumably being to build a compelling complete package that will sell MSN Internet access, sell in its own right, or be sold via other ISPs. The Digital Dashboard, by the way, one of Bill's visions from a couple of years back, seems to be making an appearance in MSN 8.0.

The software will be out "later this year" in the US and Canada, and in "the following months" (they've really nailed down the schedule on this one) in the rest of the world. And we appear to have a small piece of potential collateral damage in Europe. Down at the bottom of this Reuters report Microsoft is claimed to be "no longer interested in operating a Web portal and ISP in Europe," instead, it feels it can work on revenue sharing arrangements with ISPs whereby their users would use the MSN (i.e. MSN US) portal as their home page. MSN business manager Benjamin Schmittzehe tells Reuters there's currently no deal for announcement, but that plans will be rolled out in the UK this fall (cough, we think you mean autumn, Ben) and the rest of Europe in 2003.

As you may recall, MSN UK was left in place some years back when Microsoft backed off from ISP services elsewhere in Europe (incidentally totalling that handy Caen node The Register was using). However, if the announcement is in the UK first, and Microsoft isn't interested in operating European Web portals, we fear it sounds like goodbye for MSN UK, and for msn.co.uk. ®

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