I really like Movable Type, and have been a fairly active proponent of it. It certainly has its drawbacks, though, not the least of which is that it is very intimidating to set up. But hey, you can’t beat the price–it’s free.
Enter TypePad. This is a hosted Movable Type service, sort of (technically the back-end is a little different from MT). It looks very nice, and it seems clear that the Six Apart people have done a lot of polishing and tweaking to make the user interface and the default blog templates just that much better than what comes with the current version of MT (which are already good). So that solves the difficult set-up problem, but the trade-off is that you pay for it. They’re offering three tiers of service, and it is interesting that they are tying price to user sophistication. That is, the more control you want, the more you must pay.
This strikes me as a misstep, though a minor one. I don’t understand how the ability to manually edit a template (for instance) would actually raise costs, except perhaps for support (and I have no idea how that’ll work)–what should really matter would be storage space, bandwidth usage, things that really impose costs at the back end. I can imagine a non-technical user who wants to use TypePad as a photo album–which would require one of the more expensive accounts–but who would have no desire for the more extensive tweakability that came with it. By the same token, a more sophisticated user with modest server needs would pay for resources that would go unused.
Nevertheless, for people who are sick of Blogger.com (or don’t want to get started there) but don’t want to get their hands dirty with MT, TypePad looks very nice indeed. Some of the handsomest blogs (with the best markup) on the web right now were built using default TypePad templates.