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Usage Estimates for Microsoft Network

The brouhaha between Microsoft Corporation, the Department of Justice, and third-party rivals continued today with word that Pipeline Communications estimates that 9 million people are likely to try Microsoft Network (MSN), the company's upcoming online service, by the end of this year.

Pipeline, which supplies customer registration services for online service providers, is one of the companies subpeonaed last week to provide the DOJ with information about MSN. The DOJ is currently investigating Microsoft's marketing practices, particularly its plan to bundle the online service software with Windows 95, which is set for launch on August 24.

America Online, the current online leader has more than 2.9 million subscribers, with CompuServe in the number two position with 2 million users, and Prodigy at number three with 1.7 million.

The 9 million estimate for MSN within the first four months is derived from Dataquest figures predicting sales of 30 million copies of Windows 95 by the end of 1995.

Despite these estimates, there isn't any reason for rivals to panic, one analyst said.

"I think 9 million is a little optimistic. They're going to get a lot of people to try it--maybe by clicking on it once--but it will take a good year before they really get going,'' said Rick Spence, an analyst with Dataquest in San Jose, California.

Spence adds that while many content providers are signing up with MSN, there are still very few details on actual content. Besides, he points out, "as Web access gets easier, more and more people are going to access the Net directly. Why go through a third party when you don't need to?''