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Upcoming MSN version leaked on web

Just long enough for us to take a look...
Written by Joe Wilcox, Contributor

Just long enough for us to take a look...

A preview of an upcoming version of Microsoft's MSN service has leaked onto the web, offering an early glimpse of the software giant's ever-evolving online strategy. The new software, dubbed MSN 8.5, comes five months after launching MSN 8, which it considered the most significant update of its internet service since its inception. A Microsoft spokesman would not confirm that the download is authentic but a version downloaded by silicon.com sister site News.com included branding and copyright information consistent with Microsoft's products. The spokesman said the name MSN 8.5 was not officially established and was liable to change, despite using MSN 8.5 in the preview version. He also confirmed Microsoft sent out notices soliciting beta testers for the service. "We sent information out to let people know if they're interested in testing improvements to the product," the spokesman said. The leak also occurred the same week that AOL launched a new version of its own proprietary service called AOL 8.0 Plus. Microsoft and AOL launched new versions of their service within weeks of each other, both considering the launches significant upgrades. However, neither upgrade has helped drive significant subscriber growth. Both companies last quarter reported stagnancy in their subscriber numbers, blaming a change in consumer habits toward faster broadband access. AOL and MSN are now focusing on selling their software and content to people already subscribed to broadband through a different provider. Jim Hu and Joe Wilcox write for CNET News.com.
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