updated 3/12/2004 7:52:38 PM ET 2004-03-13T00:52:38

Microsoft Corp. said Friday that a "significant portion" of people who use the company's Hotmail e-mail system and other Internet-based products were having trouble accessing the services.

The company said it was an internal problem rather than an attack on its system and that it hoped to have service restored by 8:30 p.m. ET. The problem began earlier Friday.

In addition to Hotmail, the popular Web-based e-mail service, Microsoft said people were having difficulties accessing products such as company's MSN Messenger instant messaging program. (MSNBC content is distributed by MSN. MSNBC itself is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Malina Bragg, a spokeswoman with Microsoft's Waggener Edstrom public relations firm, said in an e-mail that the company did not know how many people were having trouble but that "it appears to affect a significant portion of our customers."

Bragg said the problem appeared to be affecting people who were trying to log on to the system. Those who were able to get on the system did not appear to be having problems sending and receiving e-mail, she said.

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