Microsoft was trying to build an Amazon-killer called Project Brazil

Microsoft was trying to build an Amazon-killer called Project Brazil

Summary: But it pulled the plug, according to a new report.


Big news this afternoon from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Microsoft "recently" explored creating an e-commerce marketplace that would compete with Amazon and eBay.

Unnamed sources told reporters Greg Bensinger and Shira Ovide that the Redmond, Wash.-based company held discussions with potential partners about such a venture, but it "recently pulled the plug" on the effort.

It was code-named "Project Brazil."

The pair report:

The software giant held discussions with retailers and technology companies about a marketplace, proposing to equip it with an array of merchants, as well as a unified shopping cart and broad shipping options, according to these people. To lure shoppers, Microsoft was considering subsidizing the price of goods on its e-commerce service using a portion of advertising dollars merchants spend on Microsoft's Bing Web-search engine or elsewhere, said the people.

Why did it cancel the project? We don't know.

What we do know is that Microsoft wants a "task-oriented" and "direct" approach to e-commerce and online advertising, it told the Journal. We also know that the company seeks to integrate it fully with its Windows operating system (desktop and mobile) and Xbox gaming platform.

We can infer one additional point: Microsoft is on the hunt for more revenue. E-commerce is certainly a growing (trillion-dollar) market, but taking on an established leader like Amazon is no easy task. (Just ask Walmart.)

What were executives thinking? We're dying to know. (If you know anything about this project, drop us a line.)

Topics: Microsoft, Amazon, E-Commerce

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Amazon-killer called Project Brazil

    Why can't Microsoft come up with better names for their stuff?

    I mean Amazon - Brazil

    Did they pull the plug because they found out Brazil (the country) is heavily into Linux?
    • A project name is often not the name of the implemented or final product.

      MS has a history of that, and the names often are to deflect from the real intentions of the project.
  • would have failed anyway

    so M$ saved itself some dow this time.
    LlNUX Geek
  • Unfortunate name

    If you try to connect with a non-MS system, do you get a visit from Central Services?
    John L. Ries
    • I was thinking of the Movie too

      but was not sure anyone here would get it :)

      Where's Tuttle when you need him?
    • No... it's from Information Retrieval... :-) (NT)

  • could be good

    Agree MS has always waited till something's proven, then moved on it, but both could be good for the average user of Ebay and Amazon, competition always seems to spur better developments
  • Naming

    I don't think they could have withstood the ribbing about getting a Brazilian!
  • Er... Andrew, you have insulted Ballmer with a profanity...

    Well, it's not the exact word, but it would occur to 10 out of 10 speakers of Portuguese. (I am Brazilian and didn't know if I felt awkward or just laughed reading that.) The last syllables on that soccer shirt combined with Ballmer's name form a very close approximation to the diminutive name of a certain undesirable substance that all cultures avoid mentioning (and so will I). Like all other languages, Portuguese has a "formal" name for when it is inevitable to mention it, and a few obscene names for it. It is one of those obscenities that is very nearly printed on that shirt.

    Ronaldinho is called that because the suffix "-inho" is used to form diminutives in colloquial Portuguese. Such diminutives are often meant to express affection rather than a small size. So, the name "Ronaldo" becomes "Ronaldinho." When the phonetics doesn't help, a "z" is often used as a bridge. So, a Brazilian could perhaps say "Ballmerzinho," but never "BallmerDinho" - not only because it would be unnatural to say that, but because of the almost complete similarity with the obscene word.
    • Sure the blogger can say anything he wants.

      But deletes posts at his discretion because he doesn't agree with them apparently.
      What a tiny little freaking baby. .
      • Can't be 100 percent sure, but

        if your post was in reply in a thread that DID contain offensive language, spam or something else, then the entire thread was probably removed.
        ZDNet Moderator
        ps---I don't moderate Andrew's blogs, but the ones I do I've noticed this happening. It's supposed to prevent "orphan" comments. I could have one of the other moderators check your comment, but if it was in reply to someone else that was deemed offensive, it probably was disabled when the thread was removed. The only way to prevent this is to not reply directly to a questionable comment, but post as a new comment thread. Yeah, I know...clear as mud! What little I've seen of your comment I would not call offensive, if that's any consolation.
        pss...just ran a test, by golly, I think that's what happened...I had posted this to an earlier comment, then sure enough, when the offensive post is moderated, the entire thread is removed.
        • I sent Andrew my post asking why it was being flagged...No Reply...

          There was nothing in my post that was spam related in any way and nothing vulgar.
          I see vulgarities getting through constantly and I see a trend in that if they are Pro-technology B, it's ok, but not if it's technology A.
          You may say that I'm wrong and perhaps paranoid or petty or whatever, but the pattern continues to take shape.

          Here is my original post (granted it is PRO company A, but i've never seen anyone flagged as spam for advocating any technology on here, ever.

          I think it's obvious that had it been left to IBM, the PC market would have been much slower to take off. They had Apple like pricing and proprietary hardware.
          Does anyone really think that would have changed? Seriously, who was there to see the potential of an easy to use OS on inexpensive hardware? Even if the remaining tech companies of that day had that vision, it obviously had not hit them yet and you can never know it would have.
          Is everyone saying that because the state of technology is what it is today, there was nothing significant in history that made that happen? There are no events in history which if they had not occurred, may not have slowed down the process, perhaps significantly?
          We'll never know but there was NOBODY positioned to execute what Microsoft did in creating the rapid PC rise.
          There are those actually saying they did it with a monopoly. At what point in time was MSFT a monopoly, or the play one that the inept judge who if he had a spine would have stepped down and recused himself from the case, but instead he wasout to get MSFT for personal reasons.
          Don't let that sidetrack you though MSFT haters? Who was ready, out of the massive tech giants, all much larger than MSFT, to create such a large PC market at the time they did it? There was nobody else that I know of working toward creating a market with non proprietary hardware with use friendly software on such a scale. It's easy to see everything would have been at least 5 to 10 years behind at best just giving room for any of the remaining companies to have changed course from what we know they did. You do realize nobody foresaw what we have today, then, right John, and was ready to execute had MSFT not done so?
          There are markets that are still in the dark ages out there because they had no MSFT company come along.
          Please, someone paint a picture and provide how it may have happened to even remotely equal what Gates did within even 5 years of the time it did happen, and how they would have accomplished it.
          It would be like the mid to late 90s right now in terms of marketshare, not technology, without MSFT, at best in my opinion. I don't see how anything remotely close to the model they used would have flourished in even 15 years time. At best it may have been IBM vs Apple and high priced proprietary hardware being the only options for years. Sure the technology would have continued to advance but not at the same pace due to less PC owners and that access to technology. You can't conceive of history being different and you see this as a joke?
          We have vendors that still use DOS batch files. I know companies still mired in Cobol.
          It surely could have set us back years
        • was not flagged this time. Does the age of the blog...

          ...come into play?
  • The "Brazil" project is just a ruse, and Microsoft is just putting out

    rumors. The name of the project might have been "Brazil", but the real project entails MS purchasing Amazon. MS has the cash to do it, and Amazon is not really that profitable. MS could improve Amazon to greater greater sales and to greater profits.

    • Is this speculation?

      Or is there some real live inside information (not just a rumor) that has come to your attention?
      John L. Ries
      • It's a "factual rumor", started by me, but...

        I wouldn't bet against the possibility that MS might be interested in acquiring a big-time player in the online store arena. If the "Brazil" idea was real, I doubt that MS has given up on the idea; it's oftentimes a lot less "headachy" than doing your own, and it's a lot quicker to "get started" if the store is already a proven entity.

        I wouldn't put it out of the question that MS still intends to get into the e-store market.
  • A bad choice of name

    They should have done some research first, as part of the name 'Ballmerdinho' is 'merd' which means sh!t (sorry but that's the meaning) in Portuguese, and 'inho' is diminutive, that is, 'little sh!t' (sorry again). The first impression is so weird that we think it is a joke, it cannot be the real name of anything.