The Microsoft(r) Network:
The Easy-to-Use Interactive On-line Service For Users of Windows(tm) 95
Microsoft Corporation has long believed in the promise of personal computers to enable new ways of thinking and communicating that are accessible, useful, personal and fun for all computer users. It calls this vision "Information At Your Fingertips." The introduction of The Microsoft(r) Network on-line service represents Microsoft's next step toward the realization of this vision.
While interactive on-line services are well-publicized throughout the print and broadcast media, today's services are surprisingly less popular with consumers than all the hype might suggest. For example, although 40 percent of users of the Microsoft Windows(tm) operating system have modems, fewer than 10 percent of users of Windows and 4 percent of U.S. households subscribe to any on-line service. The on-line-services business today remains in its infancy, with providers of existing on-line services working to find the right technical, business-model and usability solutions that will promote acceptance beyond the early-adopter audience that has sustained this category to date. But the potential of these services is tremendous. The on-line consumer market could become a $2 billion market within five years, according to SIMBA Research.
For this projection to come true, significant investments must be made to deliver the promise of "Information At Your Fingertips" and to establish mainstream viability for interactive on-line technology. On-line services must offer easier access and a more compelling environment for all computer users to attract and maintain a broader audience. Content and service providers must be offered greater publishing abilities and viable long-term profit opportunities before consumers will see compelling benefits.
Introducing The Microsoft Network
Access to The Microsoft Network is a feature of Windows 95, the forthcoming version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is an on-line service that makes accessing electronic information and communications easy and inexpensive for any user of Windows 95. It removes the primary barriers to on-line service use -- cost, difficult user interface and inertia. The Microsoft Network extends the Windows-based desktop to a worldwide community of people, ideas and information. It provides a setting for a worldwide electronic marketplace of products and services from Microsoft and third-party companies.
With The Microsoft Network, Microsoft hopes to expand the on-line market by delivering the needed technology and business model to provide an on-line experience that meets the needs and expectations of both consumers and content providers.
The Microsoft Network Strategy
To succeed in the marketplace, interactive on-line services must provide uniquely rich and valuable solutions to customer needs, offered in a more compelling and accessible way than other alternatives. This premise drives the strategy behind The Microsoft Network. The Microsoft Network extends the benefits of on-line services to a larger audience by addressing the limitations that curb the widespread adoption of on-line services today.
A Viable, Long-Term Business Environment
The Microsoft Network differs from existing on-line services in many ways. Among the chief differences is the fact that it offers a new platform model that is flexible enough to encourage and reward independent content and service providers for their participation. This model facilitates the rapid development of a broad range of content and services, attracting users and expanding the market.
The on-line business environment must reflect the diverse nature of business itself in order to realize its full potential. Companies succeed in business by adopting practices, branding, packaging and selling models that are tailored to their products and their customers. They invest in channels of distribution that provide the infrastructure and flexibility to support these strategies and their resulting profitability. Current on-line services inhibit the way providers can present their information and services, and limit the profits that independent providers can realize, often to a small share of a shrinking revenue model based on customer on-line connection-time charges.
The success of The Microsoft Network will be based on the success of Microsoft's content providers in reaching and motivating customers. So Microsoft is going to lengths to help ensure that success. The Microsoft Network provides a new and different business environment that puts significant revenue control in the hands of the content or service providers.
Providers aren't limited in the ways in which they realize revenues for their services. Variable revenue and pricing models such as subscriptions, on-line transactions, advertising subsidies, and ticketed events are at the provider's discretion. More important, providers retain the majority of the revenues that their content and services generate.
Easy and Inexpensive Access
Meeting customer demands for easier access to technology is a fundamental charter of Microsoft products. To that end, customers will find it easy to sign up and access The Microsoft Network as a feature of the Windows 95 operating system. The Microsoft Network fully harnesses the power and ease of use of Windows 95.
By extending the feature set and graphical interface of Windows 95, The Microsoft Network provides a familiar environment that facilitates easier exploration and interaction in the on-line world. In all respects, The Microsoft Network looks and acts just like Windows 95, offering customers easy, consistent and graphical functionality. For example, The Microsoft Network services can be browsed using the Explorer in Windows 95 or from an icon-based container view. Actions such as downloading files are simple copy operations accomplished by drag and drop. Shortcuts enable personalized and efficient navigation. The Microsoft Network's e-mail and rich-text content documents are managed through the Information Exchange and WordPad services built into Windows 95 with the same familiar user interface carried through all core communications functionality.
The Microsoft Network also offers affordable access. By adopting a business model that emphasizes member and content activity rather than connect time, The Microsoft Network delivers services at the lowest possible cost to its members.
A More Compelling On-line Experience
The Microsoft Network supports and promotes personalized discovery and investment for members and content providers alike. Both are enabled with a new generation of technology and capabilities and are empowered to shape and evolve on-line communities.
The Microsoft Network interactive experience revolves around these dynamic content communities, each produced to make the most of the interactive medium and the specific topic, product or experience at hand. For example, content areas cover the following subjects:
These communities will be facilitated by a select group of Forum Managers, who bring specialized knowledge, credibility and respect in their areas of expertise.
Members will have tremendous breadth and depth of technical, vertical-market and general-interest communities with which to explore and interact on a local or worldwide basis. Content and service providers will discover the opportunity to extend their brands, products and businesses in a graphically robust, interactive manner.
The Microsoft Network will further facilitate a higher quality of content and services by providing tools and technology to support a truly personalized, multimedia presentation.
Access to communication abilities that transcend the traditional boundaries of time, cost, resources and geography is one of the primary benefits of the Microsoft on-line system.
The Microsoft Network is designed from the ground up to accommodate full international access. The ability to access the network from anywhere in the world -- and to exchange information with users anywhere in the world -- makes the system even more compelling.
By integrating with the Information Exchange in Windows 95 and extending this functionality to bulletin board, file library and "chat" services, The Microsoft Network will offer the most robust, easy-to-use communication capabilities.
Consistent user interface, OLE support, drag-and- drop management, Explorer navigation, and rich-text formatting all extend the consistent experience of using Windows 95 within The Microsoft Network communication environment.
The Microsoft Network Services
When The Microsoft Network becomes available, subscribers will have access to the following basic services:
The Microsoft Network's extended services and products will include both Microsoft-branded and independently branded options available to users. Some will be available for an additional charge, and others will be available at no additional charge, with their revenues coming from advertising or shopping-transaction fees.
By combining unprecedented access and ease of use, a new business model to attract and reward independent content and service providers, a compelling on-line experience, and world-class communications, The Microsoft Network will spur the market for on line services, closing the gap that exists today between the potential and actual installed base for these services. In bringing highly functional and entertaining on-line service to millions of users, Microsoft is further realizing its mission of enabling "Information At Your Fingertips".