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Apple users to get a taste of MSN

After years of eschewing the Macintosh Internet service market, Microsoft is planning to offer a Mac OS X version of its MSN Internet service.

Microsoft is finally taking the plunge on providing a Macintosh version of its MSN Internet service.

After years of eschewing the Macintosh Internet service market, the company will announce its intention Thursday to offer MSN Internet access and content to users of Apple Computer's Mac OS X--though the service won't be available until early next year. Prices and features will be similar to the PC version, with those in the United States able to choose from dial-up service and broadband. There is also a plan for those who want the MSN content but already have Internet service through another provider.

As previously reported, Microsoft quietly dipped its toe in the Mac market earlier this year when it offered dial-up access for those customers in 14 states served by telecom provider Qwest Communications. Microsoft has been offering a Mac OS 9 program that dials into the Internet, but the program does not offer the customized browser and other MSN content found in the PC version.

Offering the service was part of a deal Microsoft struck with telephone service provider Qwest a year ago to transition Qwest's dial-up and broadband customers from the service to Microsoft's MSN service.

At the time, Microsoft executives told CNET that the company was evaluating whether it would offer support for Mac OS X.

Tim McDonough, director of marketing for Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, said in an interview Wednesday that the company has been studying bringing MSN to the Mac for about a year.

Although the company is still finalizing many of the details of the program, McDonough said Microsoft's plans already include using elements of its Entourage program for handling e-mail and providing a customized browser based on Internet Explorer 5.2 for the Mac.

Even though the new software is designed to offer many of the features in Microsoft?s forthcoming MSN 8 for Windows, it will be a native Mac OS X program written by the company?s Macintosh Business Unit, said McDonough

The software giant?s commitment to Apple's systems has come under question as a five-year deal to develop Mac software comes to a close. Microsoft has said it will continue to develop Mac programs but has said it is only committing to products one version at a time and has not put a time frame on its commitment.

The software giant has criticized Apple for not doing enough to promote Mac OS X.