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Microsoft Quietly Releases Premium Service

The premium ad-free version of Microsoft's e-mail service that offers personal addresses that can be shared by five people is now generally available. Premium will once again test the appetite among users to pay for personal e-mail services they've received for free for decades, if they ever paid for them at all. The new Premium service, which costs $49.99 per year, is available at a promotional rate of $19.95 until March 31.

Microsoft released Premium last year, first to private invitation-only pilots and then launched a public preview in October, as documented by Mary Jo Foley in her ZDnet blog. Microsoft recently removed the "preview" designation from the service, though the company didn't say when, according to a Feb. 14 update.  A few weeks earlier, Microsoft told Foley that the migration of the 400 million mailboxes to the Office 365 infrastructure, which is powered by Microsoft Exchange, was 99.9 percent complete.

All of the major e-mail providers have long offered premium ad-free e-mail services and other perks including Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. What could give the new Premium service added appeal is the ability to create or use existing personal e-mail addresses to an account. Furthermore, a user can allow four additional people to use the domain name of the e-mail address, allowing them to also share calendars, contacts and files. The service also lets customers either create any domain that's available or tie to one they already have.

Customers who sign up for the promotional $19.95 rate will get use of the personal domain free for the first year. While they can renew for the same price, each personal domain costs an additional $10 per year. The personal domain automatically synchronizes mailboxes, along with, and accounts into one mailbox.

Personal e-mail domains require an Premium subscription, according to Microsoft's FAQ about the Premium service, which implies that cancelling the latter means you must give up your domain name. You can create up to 10 aliases per Microsoft account and are permitted to change them up to 10 times per calendar year. Premium users can use the same password to sign into an account with any alias tied to that Microsoft account, according to the FAQ. The company describes how to add or remove aliases in Premium here. If you bring your own domain, the registration process requires that you verify ownership and update its mail (MX) records by following instructions on the "bring your own domain" setting.

Users who don't want e-mails from their different accounts to appear in the same inbox can create rules to automatically move messages from a specific account to different e-mail folders. Premium also allows users to send and receive e-mails from AIM Mail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail addresses accounts, with Premium serving as the primary inbox for those other accounts. Similar to Microsoft's free e-mail services, attachment size limits are 10MB -- or 300GB when linked via OneDrive. Premium, according to the FAQ, does not "currently" support e-mail auto-forwarding, e-mail groups, DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). Perhaps the use of "currently" suggests those features may appear in the future. For now, Premium is only available to customers in the U.S.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/27/2017 at 12:47 PM


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