MSN for sale?

Is Microsoft shopping its online service?No, says the Redmond, Wash.

Is Microsoft shopping its online service?

No, says the Redmond, Wash., software company, which on Friday dismissed reports that it intends to dump Microsoft Network.

This is not the first time that the rumor has taken off. But analysts say that Microsoft is unlikely to jettison its online service -- at least anytime soon.

"MSN is really a testbed for Microsoft to try out all sorts of technology and understand the customer market," said Zona Research Inc. analyst Barbara Ells, who added it was "doubtful" Microsoft would sell MSN.

"You couldn't say that test has been concluded," she said.

Ells said Microsoft might freeze its experiment or branch out in other directions, but she said Microsoft probably was looking at MSN as a channel to market its other products rather than make money on its own.

Other analysts agreed, noting that Microsoft has not had to invest huge amounts of money to promote MSN.

The arrival of MSN in August 1995 raised major concerns among rival online services. America Online, in particular, expressed concerns Microsoft would gain an unfair advantage over other online services.

That subsequently became a moot issue after Microsoft has agreed to include AOL software in future shipments of Windows 95. In return, AOL agreed to incorporate Microsoft's Internet browser into versions of its software.

Contributions by Charles Cooper


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