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Microsoft to reveal .Net pricing details

Bob Muglia, group vice president of the company's .Net services group, says the software giant will announce pricing for business-partner companies Tuesday.

    LOS ANGELES--Microsoft on Tuesday will disclose some long-awaited details of the business plan behind its .Net My Services Web software strategy.

    "We will announce pricing for (business partner) companies tomorrow," Bob Muglia, group vice president of Microsoft's .Net Services Group, told CNET News.com on Monday.

    Microsoft expects to earn most of its profits from .Net My Services through subscriptions charged to consumers. At the same time, it will charge its business partners and developers a small fee to gain access to the .Net My Services user base. Muglia said fees for companies participating in the service will be "nominal."

    Analysts have speculated that Microsoft will charge consumers a base fee of $25 to $50 per year, plus a usage-based fee depending on which services are used and for how long.

    Muglia said he believes there is a market for Web-based services and software.

    "You all pay for your cell phones, telephones, cable and satellite," he said. "We think (people) are willing to pay for software (over the Web)."

    Muglia, speaking at a press briefing at Microsoft's annual Professional Developers Conference here, also touted Microsoft's Passport authentication service and dismissed Sun Microsystems' efforts to create a similar technology through its Liberty Alliance partners.

    Muglia said Microsoft wants to work with every competitor, including Sun, to ensure that authentication services can work together.

    "We want to work with the rest of the industry to make it a reality," he said. "No company will hold all the user accounts."

    .Net My Services is a key element in an overarching plan, called Microsoft.Net, for moving business computing to the Web. Microsoft .Net touches nearly all of Microsoft's products, services, Web sites and development efforts. It includes a new blueprint for how software should be designed; a set of products for building that software; and .Net My Services, an initial set of Microsoft-hosted services. The company late next year plans to offer content, shopping, banking, entertainment and other Internet services through a variety of devices, all linked to Microsoft's Passport authentication service.

    See special report: The Gatekeeper: Windows XP Microsoft says customers who sign up for .Net My Services, expected to debut in full next year, can expect to eventually get one-step access to electronic documents, contact lists and calendars; instant alerts on stock changes, weather forecasts and flight delays; and automated transactions, such as online banking, ticket purchases and stock trades, from Microsoft and its partners.

    Mulgia said Microsoft is offering software-developers kits for programmers who want to start building .Net My Services, .Net Alerts and .Net Passport. The kits for .Net My Services will be inexpensive and feature entry-level, standard and commercial uses, he said. Microsoft is expected to announce this week that a new set of development tools, called Visual Studio.Net, is on track for release later this year.

    The company in the second quarter of next year will test its data-center technology that Microsoft is assembling to house and support its .Net My Services infrastructure, Muglia said. The data center will go live in the fourth quarter of next year.

    Muglia also said the company will offer business Web services in the future, including the handling of purchase orders over the Web, but declined to give further details.

    Microsoft has long said it would charge subscription fees for access to .Net My Services, but executives in August were still fleshing out the rest of the business strategy for .Net My Services, such as what to charge its business partners.

    Muglia also said the company will offer some .Net My Services for free, such as the existing Passport authentication service; Presence, which allows people to check if other people are online; and .Net Alerts, which will allow Web sites to contact and send messages to customers via PCs, cell phones and other handheld devices.

    The company will charge a monthly fee for other services, such as calendar and scheduling, offerings through the MSN online service, and Microsoft Office over the Web, Muglia said. The company recently began charging extra fees for Hotmail e-mail users who wanted more storage space for their e-mail, he said.

    Besides subscriptions, the company still expects to earn revenue through advertising on services like MSN, he added.