Microsoft to charge for Mobile Hotmail

Microsoft Corp. beginning Dec. 3 will charge an annual fee for MSN Mobile Hotmail, a service that lets users access e-mail on a mobile phone or handheld computer.

The change from a free to paid service is worldwide. In the U.S., the service will cost US$19.99 per year if users sign up before Nov. 25. After that, the price goes up to US$24.99 per year. International pricing varies by country, a Microsoft spokeswoman said Friday.

There are 38 mobile phone operators in North America, Asia and Europe that offer MSN Mobile Hotmail. Users can subscribe either directly with MSN or through their mobile operator, Microsoft said in a statement sent via e-mail.

The move is part of Microsoft's efforts to make money out of its loss-making MSN business. The for-pay premium services are meant to support popular free services such as MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger, the company said.

Another for-pay MSN service is MSN Extra Storage, which offers 10M bytes of extra space to store mail on Microsoft's e-mail service, as well as other features, for US$19.95 per year.

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