MSN targets search, shopping, communication

During a three-hour demonstration this morning, Microsoft Corp. executives detailed company plans for developments in three key areas of its new Everyday Web strategy -- search, shopping and communication.

During a three-hour demonstration this morning, Microsoft Corp. executives detailed company plans for developments in three key areas of its new Everyday Web strategy -- search, shopping and communication.

Search: As part of its new technology-based Web strategy, MSN will immediately roll out a new version of its search engine.

Brad Chase, vice president of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT)consumer and commerce group, said that it will use existing directory and text based search capabilities provided by its partnerships with LookSmart and AltaVista and combine that with newly developed backend software technology enabling better relevancy ranking, intelligent word stemming and auto-correction of common misspellings. International versions of the new search engine will be rolled out in the coming months.

Shopping: A revamp of MSN's shopping area aims to streamline the online shopping experience by creating a space where customers are able to search, compare and make purchases in one stop.

"This is the way people want to shop. They want to search, they want to compare, and then they want to buy," Chase said, after noting that Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) research shows that, currently, two-thirds of online shopping carts are abandoned before a final purchase is made.

Beginning in November users searching for items on MSN search will be directed to a shop-and-compare option that allows them to gather information and make a purchase without leaving the site by utilizing technology from Compare.net and Microsoft's Passport tool.

A prototype of a new service, dubbed "market monitor," was also unveiled. The service would monitor prices both online and offline and automatically notify users when a deal is found. No date has been set for the market monitor launch.

Communication: The ability to communicate anytime, anywhere, on any device is the key component of Microsoft's plans for its e-mail instant messaging offerings.

During a demonstration of a prototype of MSN Messenger integrated into Outlook Express, Microsoft Director of Consumer and Commerce, Yusuf Mehdi, showed how users will be able to instantly determine whether the person they need to contact is online.

Messages can be sent and replied to through instant messaging or e-mail, whichever is easier. Although the two services can be cobbled together by hand today, Microsoft is not ready to announce a date for their formal integration.

Web publishing for dummies
Additional prototype demonstrations focused on the need for easier Web publishing tools.

Chase said MSN wants to make the Web "your personal place to collaborate'" by improving users' abilities to create their own Web communities. As part of their Everyday Web efforts, MSN plans to introduce wizziwig editing capabilities on its personal Web sites, similar to the editing tools in Word or Excel. Pages can be created, edited and published in real time. Like its plans for the integration of instant messaging and e-mail, no date has been set for the community tools.

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