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Microsoft: MSN won't be rebranded

But there will be investments going forward

Although the new head of Microsoft's MSN division has been calling its portal 'MSN Media Network' internally, the software giant has no formal plans to rebrand the site, a company spokeswoman said yesterday.

Rumours and published reports surfaced earlier this week, suggesting that Microsoft would change the official name of its MSN portal to reflect improved services on the site offering more access to digital media and entertainment content. However, spokeswoman Kathy Gill said yesterday that while there will be an enhancement of entertainment and media services under the leadership of new MSN division leader John Nicol, the 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 formerly was president and CEO of the news channel MSNBC, and also worked for Microsoft's IPTV division at the company's Silicon Valley campus before assuming his current role.

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

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

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

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

To 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, and is slated to host its first-ever trade show for web and multimedia content developers, MIX 06, in Las Vegas next month.

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