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Microsoft, Nextel to Offer Wireless Portal

Looking to extend its reach in the wireless Internet market, Microsoft Corp. Monday announced plans to launch a co-branded portal with Nextel Communications Inc. on its MSN site, designed specifically for wireless users.

As part of the agreement, Microsoft also committed to buying $600 million worth of Nextel stock, priced at $36 per share.

Under terms of its deal with Microsoft, Nextel will offer the portal to its reported 3.15 million customers. The portal is based on industry standards and is intended to work with handheld devices, cellular phones and interactive pagers, the companies said.

Microsoft will provide offerings such as its Hotmail e-mail utility, news and information from msNBC and calendar services from its recent acquisition, Jump Networks Inc. Future plans include the introduction of e-commerce applications, the companies said.

Targeting the wireless market was a logical step in Microsoft's strategy to provide for all its users, said Sung Rhee, general manager of MSN Wireless Services.

"The wireless and handheld customer bases are exploding, and the demographics of these users overlay the mainstream users and online enthusiasts of the core MSN audience perfectly," Rhee said.

"Continuing growth of wireless networks and decline in prices of wireless devices will further fuel this segment."

The portal is scheduled to be available later this year in conjunction with the next major upgrade of the MSN portal, Microsoft said.