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(April 12, 2001) -- Microsoft Corp. says its MSN Internet access service has pulled in more than 5 million subscribers in the U.S., racking up 1 million additional users since Jan. 1.

That number still pales in comparison to the 28 million subscribers AOL Time Warner has. Microsoft reported the update for the Internet-access side of its business on Wednesday.

Sarah Lefko, MSN product manager, attributes the increase to aggressive promotion with retail partners and the MSN ad campaign created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco.

"The MSN brand is just getting out there and getting more known," Ms. Lefko said.

Consumers signing up for the MSN service must go through the MSN Explorer interface, which allows them to tap into a variety of Web communities and services. Microsoft is aggressively touting the seamless integration between MSN Explorer and its Web services such as MSN MoneyCentral and MSN Music, its recently launched music community. Microsoft is expected to transition MSN Music into a fee-based subscription service. Other niche services are planned as well.

MSN is a key part of Microsoft's .NET strategy of delivering software and services via the Web.

MSN Messenger now boasts 29.5 million users and is the No. 1 free Web-based instant messaging service worldwide; MSN's free Hotmail service has 89 million users, and overall, MSN has 230 million unique users globally. -- Tobi Elkin

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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