MSN won't rebrand itself

Though the new head of Microsoft Corp.'s MSN division has been calling the company's MSN portal "MSN Media Network" internally, Microsoft has no formal plans to rebrand the site, a Microsoft spokeswoman said Thursday.

Rumors and published reports surfaced earlier this week that Microsoft would change the official name of its MSN portal to reflect a ramp up of services on the site, offering more access to digital media and entertainment content. However, Microsoft spokeswoman Kathy Gill said Thursday that while there will be an enhancement of entertainment and media services under the leadership of new MSN division leader John Nicol, the MSN brand will not change.

"There will be investments going forward so it feels like a media network, but it will still be MSN," she said.

Nicol took over as general manager of MSN in November following the departure of Hadi Partovi, who previously led the division. Nicol was formerly president and CEO of news channel MSNBC, and worked for Microsoft's IPTV division at the company's Silicon Valley campus before assuming his current role, Gill said.

Nicol will use his media experience to enhance MSN so it seems more like an Internet destination for entertainment services than merely a place for users to link to and find information or check e-mail, she said. The company will integrate more video content through MSN's various channels -- such as Travel, Shopping, Health & Fitness, Dating & Personals, Movies, and the like -- as well as add personalization features so users can customize the way they use those channels, Gill said.

For instance, if an MSN user has photos from a recent trip he would like to share with the MSN community, there will be a service that allows him to post those photos to the Travel channel, she said. Similar customization features will be offered for other channels, Gill added.

Microsoft's MSN is at the center of the company's strategy to offer more Web-based services and entertainment content so the company can derive revenue through paid advertising and deals with media content providers. Microsoft officially launched this initiative, dubbed Live Software, late last year.

Since then, the company has rolled out new services, such as Windows Live, a beta service that lets users customize Web-based content and services on a home page. The company is also expected to roll out the first beta of Office Live, an online e-mail and business intelligence service aimed at business users, next week.

To further bolster its Live Software plans, Microsoft recently launched Live Labs, an internal research effort to help get Web-based services developed and out of the door quickly. It is slated to host its first-ever trade show for Web and multimedia content developers, Mix '06, in Las Vegas next month.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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