MSN Testers Receive New 'Butterfly'

MSN testers will soon find out whether it's better with the butterfly. "Butterfly," code-name for the MSN 9.1 beta program, is now available for download at BetaPlace.

Some of the perks MSN is offering testers are four free months of MSN and free dial-up access as needed. Testers are asked to fill out a short pre-installation survey prior to downloading the software.

Although few specific details are available at the present time, MSN is busy readying its own music store and advanced search technologies.

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MSN will launch Newsbot -- a search tool that aggregates news from over 4000 sources worldwide -- and Blogbot -- a tool that produces relevant search results from blogs -- by the end of this year. Answerbot, which will feature a natural language interface for displaying search results, will arrive in the next wave following Newsbot and Blogbot.

In addition, Microsoft is investing heavily in a new algorithmic search engine, currently being developed by Microsoft Research.

Redmond has also promised to deliver its music store sometime this year, having recently completed a new digital rights management technology dubbed "Janus"; making a subscription-based pricing model a possibility.

Synchronization is another piece of the online music puzzle. Microsoft Portable Media Center devices currently utilize a modified version of Windows Media Player 9 with "Smart Sync" synchronization technology.

Microsoft's beta announcement has come during a week when arch rival America Online has dominated the headlines by letting loose a refresh of AOL 9 Optimized, and revealing two new initiatives: Strauss, a light version of AOL and Fanfare, an alternative to the classic AOL client software.

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