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Microsoft may rebrand MSN portal

Will not confirm or deny

Microsoft may be getting ready to rebrand its MSN site as MSN Media Network, according to the blog Liveside.Net and an internal Microsoft website.

The LiveSide.net blog reported on the name change Monday, citing several unnamed sources for the information. One of the blog's authors, Chris Overd, said via email on Monday that those sources are Microsoft employees.

The rebranding will coincide with the launch of expanded MSN services for downloading digital media content, and is aimed at expanding MSN into more of a digital entertainment content provider, he wrote. Currently, MSN is a web portal for providing news and video content, as well as services such as music downloading and email.

A Microsoft website showcasing Gadgets, or mini-applications for MSN's Windows Live service, also refers to the portal as "MSN Media Network".

The page is a sub-site under the official company site for the mini-applications, which Microsoft calls "Gadgets". The featured Gadget, called the MSN Homepage Slideshow, provides a rotating slideshow of multimedia images and headlines from MSN. According to the site where it appears, which is a public discussion forum about Gadgets, the application was created by a developer in the Microsoft Gadgets Lab, an internal company group.

A Microsoft spokesman from Waggener Edstrom, the company's public relations firm, said on Monday he could not confirm or deny the report of the rebranding plan.

Some of the services MSN Media Network plans to deliver, according LiveSide.net's Overd, are video services through MSN Video, such as movie and television downloads, as well as a podcasting service.

The authors of LiveSide.net are all Microsoft-dedicated beta testers or MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals), he said. MVP is an award the company gives to people who are active and helpful in communities for Microsoft's product groups.

Microsoft launched Windows Live and Microsoft Gadgets late last year as part of a comprehensive strategy to offer more web-based services through its MSN division and portal.

Windows Live is in beta testing and provides a hub for email and other customized web-based content and services. At the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in January, MSN spokesman Adam Sohn said Microsoft plans to give users more access to multimedia content through Windows Live by enabling them to communicate with internet-connected Windows PCs directly through the online service to remotely download movies and record television programming.

Since the official launch of its web-based services strategy, Microsoft has made significant investments to compete with a host of industry heavyweights that are in the process of offering more multimedia content over the web, including Apple, Google, Yahoo and AOL. Microsoft recently launched Live Labs, an internal research effort to help get web-based services developed and out the door quickly, and it plans to host its first-ever trade show for web and multimedia content developers, MIX 06, in Las Vegas next month.


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