Microsoft Plays The Net

It's a major about-face for Bill Gates. In August, Microsoft Corp. launched a massive effort to catch up with America Online Inc. and CompuServe Inc. by offering Microsoft Network, a new proprietary online service accessible only through Windows 95 software. MSN quickly attracted 600,000 members--not a bad start for a product that was late to market. Then, Gates abruptly decided he was fighting the wrong battle. In early December, Microsoft's chairman announced that next year, MSN would be available to all of the estimated 11 million users of the Internet.

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