Microsoft MSN 9 Beta to Kick Off Next Week

Redmond readies two versions of its broadband-optimized Internet service; one due late this year and one next.

Microsoft plans to kick off the beta test next week of its MSN 9 Internet service—now officially christened MSN Premium.

The final version of the service wont be out until "winter," however. Various Windows enthusiast sites have reported that Microsoft has told beta-tester candidates that the beta period is slated to run through January 2004, making a first or second quarter 2004 release date seem likely.

In the interim, Microsoft is planning to release a stripped-down version of its MSN service, dubbed MSN Plus, to testers by the end of this calendar year, according to company officials.

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