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Spymac follows Google on free gig of storage

Spymac, a Web hosting company for Apple Computer aficionados, is giving away 1-gigabyte e-mail accounts, mimicking a move search leader Google made last week.

Spymac, a Web hosting company for Macintosh aficionados, is giving away e-mail accounts that come with 1 gigabyte of storage, mimicking a move search leader Google made last week.

From Monday, current and new subscribers to Spymac Mail will have access to the storage, according to the company. The free e-mail accounts, which can be used with any operating system, do not rely on keyword scanning or advertising, it said in a posting on the Spymac site.

The launch could signal id="5184090">changes to the free e-mail business Yahoo and Microsoft's Hotmail dominate. These Internet companies impose fees of between $10 and $50 a year for a much smaller amount of e-mail storage. Yahoo subscribers, for example, get 100 megabytes storage--10 times less than Spymac's free 1GB--for $50.

"Yahoo and Hotmail may have to (give away more storage), if they want to stay in the game," said Kevin April, Spymac's co-founder and chief technology officer.

Spymac is trying to promote new Web hosting and auction services by giving away copious amounts of e-mail storage. With roughly 47,000 members, the former Apple Macintosh gossip Web site is small potatoes, compared with Google and other free-mail providers. But Spymac's move to offer more storage is among the first signs that the market is moving toward parity and indicates the relatively low cost of such a move.

Last week, Google shook the industry, when it said it would launch Gmail, a searchable Web-based e-mail service with enough storage to let subscribers keep messages indefinitely. Google plans to support the service by scanning e-mail and then delivering ads related to the content of messages. The initiative flagged a new direction for Google, while it also challenged the norm in the Web e-mail market.

Yahoo and MSN have made few changes to their system interfaces in recent years, but they have sought to charge fees for feature upgrades such as added storage. Yahoo is starting to , advertising price breaks for added disk space. And last week, it sent an e-mail promotion to selected subscribers, giving away 100 megabytes.

April said it's relatively cheap to upgrade members to additional storage from the 25 megabytes it had previously offered. He calculated that it would cost an average of $5 per person for 1 gigabyte of storage; that is, if the member were to use the entire allotted space.

A 1-gigabyte e-mail account can store up to 8 billion bits of data, or the equivalent of 500,000 pages of messages, according to April.

He said the storage allotments will help bring in new members, which will support its paid advertising, professional Web hosting and auction services.