REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 17, 2000 — Today’s busy consumers are demanding easier ways to access relevant information from the Web, regardless of their device or location, and MSN is meeting that demand. Today, at CTIA Wireless I.T. 2000, Microsoft released MSN Mobile 3.0, the newest version of the MSN wireless service. Launched in June 1999, MSN Mobile was the first major portal to provide wireless information delivery. New users, along with the 1.5 million unique users who already enjoy MSN Mobile, will now be able to access new integrated features and content. Recent agreements with the three leading U.S. carriers clearly mark MSN as a leading provider of content and services to the U.S. mobile market and highlight MSN’s continued success in delivering content and services across a wide range of devices, giving consumers more opportunity to access MSN from the device that is best for them.
PressPass spoke with Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of MSN at Microsoft, to talk about this milestone for MSN Mobile.
PressPass:What is MSN Mobile and how does it benefit consumers?
Mehdi: In an increasingly wireless world, consumers are enjoying connecting to the Web in new ways. The next step is making information and services from the Internet as accessible via a PDA, pager or cell phone as it is from a PC today. MSN Mobile 3.0 extends to wireless customers services such as MSN Hotmail email, MSN MoneyCentral online personal finance service, the MSNBC.com news service and Expedia.com, the most popular online travel service. By offering an integrated network of content and services through an unparalleled range of mobile phone carriers, MSN Mobile plays a critical role in enabling Microsoft’s vision of making information accessible any time, any place, and from any device.
PressPass:How do recent activities with MSN Mobile help MSN solidify its position as a leading provider of services to the US mobile market?
Mehdi: Our commitment has been twofold: to ensure that MSN Mobile is available on the greatest array of devices possible; and to provide premier content and services from MSN as well as other leading providers. Relationships with industry leaders like Verizon, Sprint and Nextel ensure that MSN Mobile is easily accessible from a wide variety of phones to increase consumer choice. Additionally, we have launched MSN Mobile in Canada and announced several relationships with Canada’s leading carriers. While any Web-enabled phone user can use the service for free by typing in “MSN,” subscribers from these carriers will have MSN Mobile as one of their first options when accessing the Web using their mobile phone. However, carrier relationships are not the only thing we are counting on. We know that consumers are looking for relevant content in addition to easy access, so relationships with popular content providers such as Citysearch and Expedia are primary to bringing the best of the Web to MSN Mobile users. Our delivery on these commitments has driven our success in the market today with 1.5 million registered users.
PressPass:How has MSN Mobile evolved to this point?
Mehdi: MSN Mobile was the first major portal to deliver wireless content to consumers with Mobile 1.0, which we launched in June 1999. With the first version, we began offering consumers one-way notifications that provide news, sports, weather, stock quotes, horoscopes, personal alerts and lottery information as selected by the user. Since then, we’ve continued to build our lead in this space by widening the range of devices on which MSN Mobile is available: pagers, Palm and Pocket PCs, mobile phones. Interactive access to MSN services, such as MSN Hotmail and MSN MoneyCentral, are also available for Web-enabled mobile phones and handheld devices. Within the past few months, we have also continued to bring existing MSN services to the mobile device in a very integrated way. Now, consumers can receive pages from MSN Messenger 3.0 and check their MSN Calendar on their Web-enabled device. The integration of our services from PC to the mobile phone gives us a great advantage.
PressPass:How are consumers using MSN Mobile?
Mehdi: With 1.5 million users of MSN Mobile, we know consumers are finding the wireless Web relevant to them. The possibilities are endless with this service. For example, we’ve had one user tell us about how his boss uses MSN Mobile and MSN Messenger to stay in touch with him when he is away from the office. A grandmother sent us a note letting us know that because she travels frequently, she is not always aware when her grandchildren send her emails. With MSN Mobile, she knows instantly when there is an online card from her granddaughter waiting in her Hotmail inbox. Another man uses the service to track his favorite team for fantasy football. Stories like these really bring this service to life and make what we do so gratifying.
PressPass:What is MSN doing to deliver the content and services consumers want?
Mehdi: MSN is always evaluating business opportunities to fill the consumers’ needs. The reality is that the PC is driving wireless Web usage, and MSN Mobile is in turn working to give consumers what they are asking for. Over 201 million users are coming to MSN.com every month for rich MSN services. We are extending to our consumers the same great offerings through great carriers like Sprint, Nextel and Verizon. With MSN Mobile 3.0, consumers not only have integrated MSN Hotmail, MSN MoneyCentral for stock information, MSNBC.com for up-to-the-minute headline news and Expedia for flight information, we’re offering more of what they want through Citysearch, MSN Calendar and MSN Messenger integration. More than 1.5 million unique mobile users have come on board to take advantage of the MSN services they want and, at the end of the day, we feel good that we’re giving them the information they want on a device that best fits their needs.
PressPass:What has MSN done to make accessing the Web easier for wireless users?
Mehdi: This is a priority for us and we have worked hard with carriers such as Nextel, Sprint, and Verizon to simplify access. For example, MSN Mobile is now on the start page of Web-enabled phones, eliminating the need to type “MSN” to get to our content and services. It’s already there. The integration MSN Mobile offers is also meant to increase the usability of the service. A good example of this is the Hotmail integration. Users of MSN Hotmail can check their email over the phone and access their address book to send mail. If the person to whom a user is writing is in their address book, this eliminates the extra step of typing in the email address. These little things make a difference. When a user enters a city for Citysearch’s local listings, the technology remembers that city the next time that user accesses the local menu option. This industry is still in its infancy, but MSN is committed to innovating better software to make accessing the mobile Web as easy as possible for consumers.
PressPass:Where is MSN Mobile going in the future?
Mehdi: MSN Mobile has had great success in the year and half that it has been available. We will continue to bring to consumers the types of services they want from their mobile devices. As technology continues to advance, and more content and service providers begin to deliver wireless content, we can see the functionality of MSN Mobile service going in several directions. For instance, MSN could take advantage of location-based technology as it is introduced on mobile phones. So, if you are in a new city and using the MSN Yellow Pages feature to find local restaurants, your phone will automatically know where you are and find restaurants near you.