Microsoft announced this morning that its next-generation Internet-access client, MSN 8, will ship later this year. A limited Beta 1 release is due this week. (Whether the MSN 8 beta software will be available to the public or is intended only for the product's beta testers is unclear.) Microsoft will make MSN 8 available free to existing MSN modem- and broadband-based Internet-access customers; other users will be able to subscribe to the service for an as-yet-undisclosed fee. This unexpected cost (previous releases were free) is necessary because of the product's extra services, the company says.
"MSN 8 will be the most significant version of MSN we have ever released due to the thousands of hours of feedback we are gathering from people about their everyday problems using the Internet," said MSN Vice President Yusuf Mehdi. "Armed with this feedback, we are building MSN 8 to make the Web a more useful place. Our goal is to deliver a service that consumers will want to graduate to, and with the first beta of MSN 8, we're on track to surpass this goal by delivering excellent services that leapfrog other competitive offerings."
Based on customer feedback, Microsoft dramatically improved the feature set in this release, adding virus-protection software, advanced and flexible parental controls, junk-mail filtering, new email-management and -creation tools, and access to Microsoft-exclusive online content such as MSN Money Plus, MSN Photo Plus, and MSN Learning & Research Plus. MSN 8 customers will be able to use as many as nine email addresses and synchronize their online personal information manager (PIM) data with handheld devices such as Pocket PCs and Palm devices.