Orange serves up MSN services in Europe

Microsoft's MSN network has teamed with Orange SA to deliver MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger services to Orange's mobile phone customers across Europe.

MSN said Monday that the carrier's customers in Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Denmark now have access to the services, and users in France and Belgium will be able to access them by the end of this year.

The agreement between the two companies gives MSN the opportunity to tap into Orange's over 35 million customers in the European region.

Orange mobile phone users will be able to view their Hotmail e-mail messages via text message and will be able to respond to messages and forward them to other addresses. Additionally, customers can receive text alerts when they receive an e-mail and chat over their mobile phones using MSN Messenger.

The cost of sending and receiving text messages depends on the country where the user is located, according to a spokesman for Orange in London. However, he added that the price in the U.K. is about £0.10 (US$0.16) to send a message and £0.12 to receive one.

Although the deal with MSN represents Orange's first foray into delivering an Instant Message service over mobile phones, it won't be the last, the spokesman added.

The deal is a good move for Microsoft, which has had a difficult time entering the European wireless market in the past, where carriers have tried to make a clear distinction between supporting voice and data services, according to James Governor, principal analyst with RedMonk LLC in London.

Microsoft has been busy sealing deals with carriers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) recently, and has lined up numerous partners, including Vodafone Group PLC in the U.K.

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