MSN 8: One Month to Launch and Counting

Beta 2 delivers more parental control, junk-mail filtering features.

Microsoft is inching closer to its expected October launch of its MSN 8 Internet service, as documented by testers who recently obtained the newest beta release and posted some of the screen shots to the Web.

Microsoft delivered Beta 2 of MSN 8 on Sept. 17, company officials confirmed. Beta 2 went to a "limited" number of internal Microsoft testers and "key" MSN reviewers, a company spokeswoman said.

One week later, the Windows enthusiast site Neowin.Net was sporting the newest screens and comments on the release.

According to a screenshot of the new MSN 8 subscription sign-up page, Microsoft plans to charge users who are not currently using MSN as their ISP $9.95 a month (with two months thrown in for free) for access to MSN 8 software and services. MSN 8 dial-up service costs $21.95 per month (with same two-month-free deal), and MSN 8 broadband, $39.95 per month.

The Microsoft spokeswoman said that Microsoft had made improvements to the parental controls and junk-mail filters that the company delivered in Beta 1 in July.

Microsoft officials have said the company plans to launch MSN 8 in October, the same month that Time Warner/America Online is slated to launch AOL 8. Some of the Windows enthusiast sites have cited October 24 as the rumored launch date. Publicly, Microsoft is holding fast to its "this fall" MSN 8 launch date.

In addition to including more e-mail and IM tracking and filtering, MSN 8 also is expected to include a shared-browsing capability that will go beyond the shared whiteboarding provided via the Windows Messenger component of Windows XP.

Microsoft also has said that MSN 8 will provide new virus protection and e-mail editing tools. Microsoft also is making available to MSN 8 subscribers souped-up services for money and investing, photo-sharing, and learning and research.

Want the latest on MSN 8 and other Microsoft consumer efforts? Then sign up today for your free, 14-day Microsoft Watch trial.