HONG KONG (01/26/2000) - Microsoft Corp. today brought its recent redesign of the MSN Web portal to Asia, making the new look and features available on five sites across the region.
Users of MSN's Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Korea sites can now use enhanced messaging and personalization features, as well as an easier-to-use interface and more local content, according to company officials.
The updated MSN hits Asian markets as a stream of companies in the region launch portals designed to serve all of Greater China or all of Asia. Sina.com already is the most visited Web site in Mainland China, and China.com has formed a number of partnerships that extend its reach far from its Hong Kong base.
Rather than compete head-on with such sites, Microsoft will pursue a partnership strategy, according to Stephen Wu, regional general manager of Microsoft's Consumer and Commerce Group Asia.
"We present a platform for those local people to present their services," Wu said.
Wu gave as examples of the strategy Microsoft's partnership with broadband service provider GigaMedia and Web portal Yam.com, both in Taiwan. MSN is forming an online shopping portal with GigaMedia and will carry some content from Yam.com, Wu said.
The redesigned MSN includes the Message Center, a box that provides a constant display of how many unread e-mail messages the user has and which friends or associates are available for instant messaging. In addition, formatting has been changed so that with one page view, the user can get all the information he or she needs at the beginning of the day. Microsoft also has streamlined the process of personalizing a user's MSN site, and has done a better job of integrating relevant local information, according to Wu.
Also available now to Asian users is Passport, a service that lets MSN Hotmail users set up a single user name and password and use it for access to other sites that agree to support it.
In March, Microsoft will launch MSN India, according to Wu. Next in Microsoft's sights is MSN China, which will be launched "shortly," he said.
The head of MSN's international team said the company has been working hard to access good local content for the site.
"The key to launching a service in this region is finding the right partners, and that is where we are in China now," said Moshe Lichtman, vice president of Microsoft's Consumer and Commerce Group International.
The company is also preparing to serve the next emerging platform for Internet access, mobile devices.
MSN is fully XML (Extensible Markup Language)-based, so supporting mobile devices with or without WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) would not be a great leap, Wu said.
"We can bring it to cell phones very quickly," Wu said. In any case, Microsoft will support WAP, currently the most prominent interface for Internet data on mobile handsets.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or online at http://www.microsoft.com.