Microsoft Corp claims a report in InfoWorld last week that it is to stop offering internet access as an integrated part of the struggling MSN Microsoft Network service in Europe is misleading. The report claimed that Microsoft would concentrate instead on developing content for its web site, and quoted Mike Delman, the US general manager of MSN. Microsoft did not deny that its French subsidiary is halting internet access services. It will hand over its internet access customers to France Telecom SA by the end of the first quarter of 1998, and France Telecom will provide access to MSN from its own Wanadoo online service. But Microsoft denied that the UK and Germany would be following suit. However, things don’t sound too rosy. In a statement, Microsoft UK says that it has never aspired to be in the ISP business. It points out that the service is run in partnership with internet service provider UUNet Ltd. And it goes on to say that although MSN will supply access as part of an integrated package as long as there is customer demand for it, it does anticipate that access will increasingly become de-coupled from content and other services. In the long-term, says Microsoft, we will see an increasing relevance being placed on the number of people visiting a web site over number of subscriber numbers where access is the focus. According to the InfoWorld report, Microsoft in Germany will hand internet access over to Deutsche Telekom, from which it currently leases network capacity, by the middle of next year. The report then quotes Delman as saying: the UK inevitably will follow. All we care about is that if someone clicks on the MSN icon on their desktop, they’ll get a seamless connection to our site. It’s not clear whether UUNet Ltd will get the business if Microsoft UK does exit.
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