Microsoft forms Personal.Net team

Microsoft Corp. has assigned a team to find out whether consumers would pay for a premium suite of Internet services tying its MSN offerings to products like the Encarta encyclopedia and the Money financial management software.

The Personal.Net team to develop premium services will fall under the newly formed Personal Services Group as part of an internal reorganization, the company announced Thursday. Bob Muglia will run the group, which will develop and manage a unified "back-end" services infrastructure for Microsoft and for third party developers.

The announcement comes on the heels of Microsoft's unveiling of its "HailStorm" initiative to build an XML-based platform on the Internet, designed to link information isolated on individual Web sites and devices into an ever-changing user experience. HailStorm will incorporate instant messaging, calendaring services and the Passport authentication service.

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