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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

January 3, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Windows Secrets: MSN Premium goods can be had for free

The Seattle-based Windows Secrets e-mail newsletter reports today that subscribers to MSN Premium are needlessly paying nearly $120 a year for services that Microsoft offers free as part of its Live suite or includes with versions of Windows.

Anyone subscribing to the Premium service should check out the table that Windows Secrets’ Scott Dunn prepared listing each of the features of a Premium subscription and its free equivalent. Twenty out of 21 features are available from Microsoft. The 21st feature, a download manager, can be found free from other providers.

Dunn reports that 8.2 million people subscribe to MSN Premium, but it’s not clear how many of those pay for a subscription or receive it as part of a bundle from their Internet service provider.

Windows Secrets, whose tagline is “Everything Microsoft forgot to mention,” also notes several instances where Microsoft has described the differences between MSN services and the Windows Live suite. But Dunn said MSN Premium users are not informed that a free alternative exists.

I’ve asked Microsoft for a comment on the article and why it doesn’t inform customers of a free alternative. I’ll post any response here.

Microsoft responds:

MSN Premium was designed to appeal to a different audience than the free Windows Live services and we continue to support this service and our subscribers. MSN Premium offers customers a single integrated client experience that simplifies web access, multiple accounts, service integration, and access to information via the ‘Dashboard.’ While Windows Live includes many comparable services, MSN Premium includes software as part of the subscription, including Encarta Premium, and offers additional functionality such as download manager and SpySweeper. Many customers are also attracted to MSN Premium’s advertisement-free experience, while Windows Live services are ad-funded.

That last point is interesting to me: Given the proliferation of advertising around the Web, its absence can now be marketed as a feature. It’s also a great example of two possible business models for what is essentially the same product: ad-supported and free to the end-user vs. subscription based and ad-free. I expect Microsoft will give its customers this choice — or something similar to it — for a growing array of its software and services offerings.

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