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Microsoft Everyday Web Strategy: More Whimper Than Bang >BY Rachel Chalmers.

Microsoft Corp unveiled yet another strategy for its beleaguered MSN portal in Seatttle yesterday, in an attempt to lend it some differentiation, which it desperately needs. Once again, Microsoft is taking the position that the internet is fundamentally broken and needs to be fixed. As Consumer and Commerce Group VP Rick Belluzzo, fresh from the CEO's chair at SGI, explained: "We want to transform the web from the occasionally used, inefficient medium it is today to a highly personalized place to get things done." Or from Brad Chase: "Today's web is pretty much a read-only medium... there's not a lot of opportunity for the average user to create personal information or to interact with people they know." That's true, as long as you discount the fairly extensive community services already offered by MSN's chief rivals Yahoo Inc and America Online Inc.

Chase acknowledges that MSN has had its problems. "MSN has gone through a long evolution," he said. "We started out trying to build an online proprietary service... Two years later we tried to become a broad-based entertainment network, a kind of World's Fair for the Web." Both attempts, of course, failed miserably, but this time we are assured that things will be different. The magic formula is leveraging Microsoft's real competency, which is in personal productivity software. Apparently all people want from the web is to use it to run their errands. The company calls this insight "Everyday Web" and proposes to implement it in four stages.

First, it plans to deliver two sets of services: search, communications and shopping for consumers, and a portal called bCentral for businesses. bCentral is supposed to help growing companies connect to the web, build a site, sell and market their products online and manage their businesses effectively. The company demo'd a new MSN Search and promised a beta of bCentral by September 30. On top of these targeted service sets, the Redmond software giant reiterated its plans for 'megaservices', of which the Microsoft Passport, a single sign-on utility, is the first example. Developers will be able to license these services for inclusion in web applications of their own. The next megaservice will be based on messaging, but no launch date was announced.

Third, Microsoft promises a marketplace or series of marketplaces to be built on the megaservices platform. The CarPoint and Ford Motor Corp joint venture, annouced last Monday, is the first such marketplace, executives explained. They warned us to expect similar vertical joint ventures from partners like CareerBuilder Inc and WebMD Inc. Finally, Microsoft tied the whole strategy back into its central mission, which you'll recall is no longer "Windows on Every Desktop" but the far less catchy (and not so inflammatory to the Department of Justice's antitrust sharks) "Bringing the Internet to Users Any Time, Anywhere and On Any Device." MSN.com's mobile services are to be extended through alliances with carriers to cell-phones, PDAs and other devices.

In other words, "Everyday Web" boils down to an elaborate rationalization for two or three done deals - the Ford JV, MSN mobile services - and a promise of a small business portal to launch its beta test next week. Not a lot for what Microsoft grandly billed as "MSN Strategy Day."
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 24, 1999
Words:538
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