Microsoft’s US-oriented content, services and browsing combo MSN Explorer is to get a UK incarnation.
Aimed at newby home internet users, MSN Explorer apes AOL's approach, creating a walled garden from which infant surfers can look at non-MSN sites, but only within a frame. Unlike a conventional IE5 browser, Explorer has MSN services embedded in toolbars running along the top and lefthand sides of the screen.
MSN Explorer combines content, such as shopping, and services like Hotmail with a friendlier version of IE5 sporting cuddly icons.
"The intention is to create an all-in-one internet experience for the new user," said Natalie Taylor, MSN marketing manager.
But MSN Explorer requires new users to have an ISP already organised, and to find their way to the MSN harbour across the scary open waters of the internet. Unlike its rival AOL, it is only available as a download from the MSN site.
The lefthand vertical toolbar enables users to program one-click customised services, such as 'my weather', 'my sports news' and 'my radio'. US-oriented content is already featured, but MSN is in discussion with potential content providers for the UK edition, due to be launched this summer.
For a product from the masters of bloatware, MSN Explorer demands a relatively slender 5MB. But that betrays Microsoft’s ambition to use it on things other than PCs, such as web-enabled TVs. No partners have yet been signed up, but MSN is "in discussions", said Taylor.