Today, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is launching MSN 8, the company's latest Internet service and access software, at a special event at the Wollman Rink in New York City's Central Park. Vastly improved since the previous version, MSN 8 features new privacy, email, and offline features, as well as extensive links with the company's Web services. For the first time, perhaps, Microsoft has a compelling service to rival that of America Online (AOL), which recently introduced its own version 8 product.

"Most people are no longer looking for just an easy service, they're looking for a useful service--and that’s what we’re delivering with MSN 8--advanced communications, parental controls, browsing tools," says Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft corporate vice president for MSN Personal Services and Business. "All of these things are provided with many levels of customization so that each MSN 8 subscriber can set up an Internet experience that is tailored just for him or her. We have raised the bar on what consumers can expect from their Internet experience and we will continue to do so with technology and innovation."

MSN 8 features advanced anti-spam technology and junk mail filters that reduce unwanted email by up to 80 percent, a shared Web browsing feature that lets two or more users remotely visit the same sites together while maintaining an instant messaging conversation, special Plus versions of MSN Web sites such as MSN Money, MSN Learning & Research and MSN Photos, and a new Dashboard feature that lets user customize their access to MSN Web services. MSN 8 is available in dial-up and broadband versions, as well as a version for users of other ISPs that costs $10 a month.

My full review of MSN 8 will be available on the SuperSite for Windows by the end of the week.