MSN Premium a ripoff? Maybe, but maybe not

So suddenly out of nowhere a discussion has blown up about how Microsoft is charging its MSN Premium users for services that are being made available for free to other users*. As Ina Friend points out, a large number of users get MSN Premium included as part of a their internet access subscription (ie for free), though some users do pay for it. We’ve been asking for information on an update since January 2006 but are yet to hear anything back. However there are still some benefits if you are a subscriber.

The main feature without a doubt is the ability to make 11 email accounts ad-free (the main subscriber account + 10 additional member accounts). This is not available in a free form whatsoever, the alternative is Hotmail Plus which costs $19.95 a year. So what would cost you $220 a year using Hotmail Plus costs just $120 a year using MSN Premium. There is a caveat here which is that some MSN Premium users don’t yet have access to the expanded 10GB inboxes that Hotmail Plus users get, but this isn’t really a big issue if you aren’t using your 5GB yet, is it? ;)

There’s also:

  • Encarta Premium, which is a much more complete research tool than Windows Live Academic Search/Book Search as exists currently.
  • Windows Live Calendar synchronisation with Outlook via the free Outlook Connector, which is a feature that Hotmail Plus users don’t have.
  • The MSN Premium client which albeit is slightly outdated, provides access to all the MSN services from one place. MSN Premium users i’ve spoken to in the past nearly always seem to like this client, which begs the question why isn’t Microsoft updating it anymore with some new features instead of sending emails around promoting the Internet Explorer 7 Optimised for MSN.

The site that started this discussion* then goes on to talk about Hotmail Plus, but makes a few mistakes. Hotmail Plus is a Windows Live service for starters, provides 10GB inboxes and has no account expiration (regular WL Hotmail is 180 days).

So yes, while MSN Premium is outdated, its still good value for money for some users. As was pointed out by Ina, it can only be good for users that Microsoft is making such big leaps with Windows Live and is now offering these services for free. In fact Microsoft just recently emailed all its MSN Premium users to inform them that the parental control system currently used will be stopped and users should update their systems by installing Windows Live Family Safety. We’ve gone and asked again about what’s happening overall, so hopefully we’ll hear something back this time!

*The site in question has just hired a PR agency to go out and contact other bloggers to write about their stories, which is so lame I decided not to link them but the rational discussion around it.