MSN Spaces launches Thursday

I was interviewed by a Merc News columnist today about MSN Spaces–he’s seen it, I haven’t. Clearly, it’s meant to give a shove to the blogging services, but given that’s a relatively small percentage of online users, what else could be involved, he asked?
We had an interesting discussion, some points of which I wanted to share:
–Maybe MSN Spaces isn’t so much about being a blogging tool for the masses as being an acquisition play to go deeper with a personal space for people who use IM, especially the 13-25 year olds.
–One of the features of the system is that (like AOL Journals) you can publish via AIM. MSN is very competitive with Yahoo and AOL and they surely noticed how Yahoo jumped ahead in the AIM race when they added IM music playlists from Launch(they added 22 MM users when they did that, as I recall).
–So, perhaps this is a set up to position MSN to have something they can use as a platform to drive teens and younger people into, with AIM and music and entertainment promotions and giveaways as the front end.
–That would do something for their ad strategy as well as for their audience numbers (and it could explain why they backed away from doing/redoing a teen portal–couldn’t this solve it more neatly?)
Also, is MSN still obsessed with AOL? If yes, the roadmap for development on this project is ironic–according to the columnist, one of the features was being able to set up cohort groups, or restrict access to your personal page to various hierarchies.
–This sounds to me like both a practical feature and one potentially meant to be competitive with AOL’s Parental controls and teen focused site (which only lets you in if you have a teen account).
And the focus on photo albums, contact cards and RSS feeds for a MY MSN space certainly sound like one of the plays here is a big catch up–to AOL, Yahoo and Google.
One intrepid blogger– Mick Stanic in Australia– has gone into MSN Space’s Japanese site and created a home page–and done a Bablefish translation. Earlier, Phil Ringwalda deconstructed the Japanese version (which is still live at the URL in the press release– spaces.msn.com–in Japanese).
The story is all over the wire, but the site’s not accessible yet. Given how fed up I am with the post-chewing Blogger, I might be a good candidate for religious conversion (or at least a new blogging platform).
Can Microsoft actually create a good consumer product this time?
Ask me in a couple weeks.
Update: Sounds like my speculations jumped the gun a bit. Michael Bazely says there is no posting access from IM–and the press release seems to confirm that.
Update 2: Creating a space for myself..more tk.