MSN’s Last Hope: Winning Out Against “Live”?; China Deal

Mary Jo Foley thinks that Microsoft has begun re-emphasizing the strategic importance of its MSN.com portal to its overall business, compared to the “Live” way of online life that it tried over the last year.
Her evidence? Earlier this fall, Microsoft opted to brand its video sharing service as “Soapbox on MSN Video,” rather than as “Windows Live Video.” Then, at this week’s Lehman Brothers Technology Conference, Steve Berkowitz, Microsoft’s Senior VP of Online Services, Microsoft’s renewed appreciation for MSN.com even clearer, she writes.
Among other things, Microsoft is planning to position MSN “as the best partner for media companies” based on the fact that Microsoft “doesn’t compete directly with them,” Berkowitz said, hinting to Google, Yahoo and AOL’s position in the scheme of things.
MSN.com currently attracts 465 million unique users a month, and if you can convince MSN.com users to take the time to enter their contacts into more-geeky Live Messenger and their address books into Live Mail, versus the more pre-programmed MSN experience, you’ve got them hooked, Berkowitz reasoned.
Meanwhile, Chinese search engine Baidu.com is close to signing a search-distribution deal with Microsoft along with two large ISPs China Telecom Corp. and China Netcom Group, Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Safa Raschty said yesterday. MSN is a catchall term for Microsoft’s array of Internet services in China. Rashtchy estimates that any such deal would add up to 50 million more searches daily on Baidu’s system, and between $10 million and $20 million in advertising sales next year.

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