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MSN eyes up iTunes

Microsoft internet service to target broadband users

Microsoft is working on an update to its MSN 8.0 internet software subscription product that will have several new features and, for the first time, be sold worldwide.

The product, which Microsoft internally refers to as MSN Premium or MSN 9.0, is planned to be released before the end of the year and will be targeted at broadband internet users, said Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi.

Microsoft is also considering launching an online music service to rival Apple's iTunes, Mehdi said. Such a service would probably replace Microsoft's current service, offered in partnership with Pressplay.

But plans for a music service are still in the very early stages, if they could be called plans at all. Perhaps because Microsoft supremo Bill Gates has said that he doesn't see a music service as a money-spinner.

"[A music service] may be a feature your platform should offer, but it's not like you're going to make some [big] markup," Gates said at a meeting last week.

But then again Mr Gates didn't think the internet would come to much either.

Although Microsoft already sells the MSN 8.0 software in some countries, including the UK, version 9.0 will be the first global subscription service it will offer.

New features will include a pop-up ad-blocker, improved picture sharing as part of MSN Messenger and a tool called the Outlook Connector that will make an Outlook email client work with MSN email and corporate email systems, allowing users to view their various inboxes in one client and combine and share calendars.

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