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Microsoft Exec Predicts #1 Ranking For MSN.com

The soon-to-be launched MSN.com is "not number one yet, but it will be," Richard Barton, GM of Microsoft's Travel Business Unit confidently predicted at a travel industry conference.

Barton said consolidating the audiences of all of Microsoft's sites that comprise the new MSN.com would rank the site as the third largest on the Web.

Barton made the remarks Monday at PhoCusWright Live 98, an interactive travel industry conference held in Phoenix, AZ.

MSN.com sites currently have a market reach of 34 percent, up from 16 percent at this time last year, according to figures from Relevant Knowledge, Barton said.

Microsoft sites in the new MSN.com hub include the default page for Internet Explorer, the in-box page of HotMail, the existing MSN.com home page, Home Advisor, Money Central, Expedia, SideWalk and MSNBC.

Barton compared Microsoft's MSN.com strategy with the company's merging of its applications software titles. Several years ago, the user interfaces and functions of programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint were standardized to function as the integrated office suite known today as Microsoft Office. Microsoft will use the same approach with MSN.com, although only common branding and some user interface features will be standardized when the service launches later this fall.

Precisely how Microsoft will make money from creating such a marketplace hasn't been identified. "We don't know how money will be made," Barton said.

Barton said that Microsoft is "confident that if we build the best Internet applications," the company will make money. According to Barton, Microsoft has invested about $100 million in creating its online travel site, Expedia.

Furthering his analogy to Microsoft Office, Barton said the new MSN.com will be "all about Internet productivity." Barton added that by making Internet users productive, Microsoft expects to "provide a superior medium for marketing and distribution" of products and services.



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