Q&A: The “Next Generation” of MSN

REDMOND, Wash., May 24, 2000 — Microsoft envisions the Web becoming so easy to use that people will make it an integral part of their day-to-day lives, and the company’s vision of the Everyday Web will be enabled by rich software and services that are available any time, any place and on any device.

The MSN network of Internet services is central to this vision. Over the past year, MSN has made significant strides in developing best-of-breed Web services for the three most common activities on the Web: communication, search and finance.

To take this vision one step further and enable any user — not just the “technical elite” — to experience the benefits of the Everyday Web, Microsoft has undertaken a project to build an integrated user experience that makes MSN’s compelling services more accessible and appealing.

To find out more about this
“next generation”
of MSN, PressPass spoke with Yusuf Mehdi, vice president in the Consumer Group at Microsoft.

PressPass: How is MSN doing?

Mehdi: We are very excited that our refocused energies since MSN Day back in September have attracted so many new users to the network. We have experienced record growth on MSN by adding 500,000 net new subscribers in just the past four months. Our growth in reach has gone up 17 percent and our minutes online have gone up 20 percent, outpacing both Yahoo and AOL. Additionally, we have the broadest presence of any portal internationally with MSN presence in 33 markets and 17 languages and 380 percent growth in unique users from 9 million to 44 million from January to April 2000.

PressPass: How will the “next generation” of MSN improve its users’ online experiences?

Mehdi: The next step we’re taking with MSN is to integrate our best-of-breed services and content with rich Internet software to give users a single, easy-to-use Internet experience. The updated MSN is going to make it much easier to get online than any other service available today. We are also focusing on giving users a much more personal Web experience, by providing content and services that are relevant to the individual consumer. It will also provide an Internet experience that is useful and relevant for users at every level of sophistication. For beginning users, MSN is easy to navigate and use, and as they become more familiar with the Web, MSN will grow along with them with advanced services such as rich comparison shopping and custom Web sites. Click here to see a screenshot.

We think users of any level will find, quite simply, that they can get more from the Web with MSN than from any other service.

PressPass: How will this be different from what is available through MSN or other properties today?

Mehdi: First of all, we are going to be the easiest way, bar-none, for new users to sign up and get online — way easier than anything else that is out there today. Another key differentiator with the new MSN is that for the first time, software is being delivered that adds value to the Web overall. This integrating Internet software is valuable for new users and our existing MSN Internet Access subscribers by making it easy to get online and integrate our core services together in one place. It also has value for consumers who are using MSN.com today and wish to integrate and simplify their interaction with our services and content. So no matter how a consumer accesses the Internet, MSN can still help them get more from the Web. That’s completely different from what anyone else is delivering today.

Additionally, the new MSN will feature some really interesting improvements to our core services. We’ve made it incredibly easy to create content on the Web by uploading documents from your hard drive or building your own custom Web site. Users can also pay bills online, not just to
institutions, but to anyone. We are also adding an integrated media player to the user interface so that anywhere users go on the Web, they can still have audio and visual experience on their screen or listen to background music as they work on the Internet. With the innovation we’re doing on our core services and the other exciting surprises we are throwing into the updated service, we believe this gives consumers a very compelling reason to try the new MSN.

PressPass: Is the new MSN designed only for MSN Internet Access subscribers, or can anyone take advantage of it?

Mehdi: The new MSN will benefit our existing MSN Internet Access users because it will do an even better job of integrating all of the MSN services and products that they are already using. The same goes for existing users of the individual MSN.com services. They will benefit from an even more integrated package with single login across all the core MSN services and easier navigation between the services than they have today.

However, the new MSN is something that users of any ISP can take advantage of. It doesn’t matter what service you are using to get connected, the new MSN will be able to add value on top of that service and provide users with all the benefits of a highly integrated Internet experience. And for new users, we truly believe that this will be the easiest way to get on the Internet and immediately be able to experience all that the Web has to offer.

PressPass: Do you see this as an integral part of growing MSN? How do you expect it will help you acquire more MSN users?

Mehdi: Absolutely. This integrated Internet experience gives us the opportunity to extend an even more complete offering to consumers than we do today, including leading services, rich content and now software that ties it all together. We will also deliver great tools that will make it easy for users of other services to switch to MSN. Couple this with our exciting access offers and you have a very compelling reason for both existing users of MSN and users of competing services to try the new MSN. As people embrace the network and find that it meets and exceeds what they expect from the Web, we see a tremendous opportunity for growth.

More important than that, however, is that this update to MSN really fits into Microsoft’s overall strategy of creating the Everyday Web. If the Web is really going to become a central part of people’s everyday lives, it needs to become easier to use. What you’ll see over the coming months with MSN is that people will be able to zero in instantly on content that is relevant to their needs: they’ll be able to shop, manage their money, keep in touch with friends and family, access news and entertainment and even create their own content. And they’ll be able to do all of these things the very first time they use the Web. We think this is a big step forward.

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