Microsoft’s new MSN Encarta Premium, based on the company’s encyclopedia brand, is a learning and research tool that combines the functionality of Encarta Reference Library 2004 and the internet. Its built-in Homework Center provides students with step-by-step writing guides, literature guides, an archive of top periodicals, a collection of web site links, and an interactive math tutorial feature called MathHelp.

Powered by Design Science MathPlayer technology, MathHelp gives students step-by-step guidance with problems in commonly used textbooks. Students select a textbook, navigate to a specific problem, and review detailed explanations by expert mathematicians on how to solve it.

Encarta Premium is a stand-alone subscription service available only in the United States and Japan that costs $4.95 a month or $29.95 a year. As of Jan. 8, it also became available as a feature in Microsoft’s newest subscription service, MSN Premium.

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