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MSN, AOL go head-to-head with 8.0 releases

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

It's the most competitive time of the year. In the run up to the holiday season, both America Online Inc and Microsoft Corp's MSN are launching version upgrades of their online services, with AOL hoping to staunch the slowing growth of it subscriber base and MSN hoping to lure more disillusioned AOLers from its archrival.

Microsoft said yesterday it will pump $300m into marketing MSN 8, which will launch officially on October 24. The company was serious (or frivolous) enough to send its executives off to launch the campaign in Superior, Wisconsin, purely for the wordplay.

MSN believes it is superior to AOL, although it avoids referring directly to the rival company, whose brand is often interchangeable with "the internet" among net newbies. MSN's campaign has the slogan "It's better with butterfly", referring to the MSN logo.

"We are investing $300m to communicate with people about MSN 8 because we want consumers to know that finally there is a better alternative to the status quo when it comes to internet services," MSN VP Yusuf Mehdi said in a statement.

AOL rules the consumer online services market, with a 35 million-strong subscriber base. MSN trails with nine million subscribers, but hopes that as users make the switch to broadband they will also consider making the switch to MSN. Both MSN and AOL, along with Yahoo! Inc, have been ramping up their broadband strategies recently.

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