MICROSOFT Hong Kong quietly introduced new charges for software service last week - one its only subsidiaries to do so - but added enough sweeteners to a potentially unpalatable package to make it acceptable to users. On the back of its Microsoft Club programme, the firm has started offering three levels of service: Standard, Silver and Gold club membership. It has kept base-level support at just that - base-level pricing, so new users are unlikely to have much to complain about. People who buy and register for full Microsoft retail products automatically become a Microsoft Club member, for free. This entitles them to a year of free support for desktop applications. It covers operating systems for only 90 days and 30 days for other products. Silver Club membership offers priority service and support on top of that offered at the entry-level. This includes access to exclusive technical and information support hotlines. Operating system support is extended to a year. Silver Club membership costs $299 a year, although an introductory price of $199 is being offered. Members who upgrade will be eligible for complimentary software worth $1,500. Gold Club members will benefit most from the new programme. Although membership is priced at $4,999, MIS managers should welcome the programme because Microsoft says they will receive a level of support superior to anything offered in the past - which should make their jobs a lot easier. Gold Club membership includes free application software and operating system support for a year and 90 days on all advanced system products. Gold Club members get free regular communications updates, including subscriptions to either ATechNet or the Microsoft Developers' Network CD-ROMs. Microsoft spokesmen said they did not expect any backlash from the charges, maintaining users would welcome the more sophisticated levels of service. ''This is not a profit-making programme; this is a cost-recovery programme.''