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Microsoft boosts mobile phone access to MSN services

PC World

SANTA CLARA, California (IDG) -- Microsoft boosted mobile phone access to MSN services with the launch on Tuesday of MSN Mobile 3.0 at the CTIA Wireless IT show here.

Enhancements to MSN Mobile include a customizable Start menu, integration with CitySearch, and access to MSN Calendar services, as well as full news stories from sibling company MSNBC. Beyond these interactive services for Web phones, MSN Mobile 3.0 also adds text services for phones without microbrowsers. Now users can receive an MSN Messenger instant message on any phone with text capabilities.

In conjunction with the launch of the new service, Microsoft claims 1.5 million people have access to MSN Mobile, which comes on the Web browser menu of Nextel, Sprint PCS, and Verizon phones.

Inching into wireless commerce

MSN Mobile's CitySearch feature lets you look up local events, movies, and restaurants, and then buy tickets right from your phone.

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"Once you reach the event details page, you can click the Buy button and purchase tickets through TicketMaster," says Sarah Lefko, an MSN product manager. This is Microsoft's test of whether people want to shop by phone, she adds.

MSN Mobile 2.0 already offered MSN users access to Hotmail, Expedia, MoneyCentral, YellowPages, and MSNBC headlines on a Web-enabled mobile phone. And like Yahoo Everywhere, MSN Mobile 2.0 also offered notification services including news headlines, weather reports, and stock and e-mail alerts for customers without Web service on their phones. MSN Mobile 3.0 builds on these services with access to MSN Calendar and MSN Messenger, but it's not yet a two-way street, the company explains.

"MSN Messenger users can set up their account to have instant messages sent as a text page to their phone when they're offline," Lefko says. "Although you can't yet send an instant message from the phone, if there's a call-back number, you can just hit Talk or you can send them an e-mail through Hotmail."

Lefko says Microsoft may add two-way text messaging in the future, but she warns that people are unlikely to want to conduct lengthy text chats on a phone. Nonetheless, two-way short messaging services are extremely popular in Europe, where two-way pagers are far less common than in the United States.

Build Your MSN Interface

Customization comes to MSN Mobile 3.0 with the Start menu. Instead of seeing the content MSN wants to put up top, you can select which MSN Mobile services you see first.

"If you use MoneyCentral all the time, you can set that up to appear on top when you enter MSN from a phone," Lefko says.

Like AOL with AOL Anywhere and Yahoo with Yahoo Everywhere, MSN wants to keep its customers connected to MSN sites no matter what device they're using. Making the wireless portal pleasant to browse may be more difficult. But Microsoft has frequently declared that mobile technology is a priority.




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