Microsoft busts into broadcasting

Microsoft has unveiled a radical new look for its MSN online service as it moves from a proprietary interface to a web-based service. The company has also announced new pricing structures.

Microsoft has unveiled a radical new look for its MSN online service as it moves from a proprietary interface to a web-based service. The company has also announced new pricing structures. MSN 2.0, which will be live by the end of the year, is available for a monthly fee of £14.95 which includes full Internet access, email and access to exclusive MSN content. A low usage rate is available which offers three hours for £4.95 a month with each additional hour charged at £1.95.

Existing Internet subscribers who wish to gain access to the MSN content can do so for £4.95 a month with the MSN Destinations Pass which allows non-MSN subscribers to log-on via the MSN web site.

The new service uses TV metaphors for its content and includes channels aimed at different demographic groups and programme schedules. The software uses multimedia technology to offer high-quality graphics, video and streaming audio. UK Content includes Movies & Shakers which reviews current British cinema releases and Blizzard with looks at the UK music scene. Microsoft is also offering a style section, called Impact, developed in conjunction with GQ and Vogue.

The service is offered nationwide via modem or ISDN. MSN is upgrading to 33,300bps modem speeds over the next few weeks.

PCDN: MSN 2.0 is fairly impressive stuff and offers a much richer visual experience to the user. Those frustrated by the Internet of still to get online may find MSN offers just what they need. However demonstrations of the current beta software have shown a service that is still slow and graphics and audio-streaming are bandwidth hungry. Microsoft may think it has reinvented the online service, it's just not quite ready yet.

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