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Microsoft Beefs Up MSN's Shopping Features

Microsoft Corp. Thursday acquired San Francisco-based comparison shopping site CompareNet as part of its efforts to enhance its consumer marketplace strategy for its MSN.com portal.

Financial terms of the CompareNet acquisition were not disclosed.

The new initiative includes a comprehensive shopping directory built through the use of BizTalk, a new e-commerce framework developed by Microsoft.

Microsoft said it wants to create "the ultimate consumer shopping environment, bringing together millions of buyers and sellers."

The company also will implement a secure purchase process for consumers on MSN and other Web sites through the new Microsoft Passport service for online consumers.

"These MSN services will allow marketers to reach motivated buyers in ways not possible previously through online or print media efforts," the company said.

"Microsoft is extremely committed to enabling e-commerce between consumers and businesses and continuing to expand the e-commerce services on MSN," said Bob Herbold, Microsoft's executive vice president and chief operating officer.

"Enhanced marketplace services will allow consumers to do some of the fastest, smartest shopping they've ever done, and sellers to promote their goods and services, reaching millions of customers with great impact. The CompareNet acquisition will be instrumental in helping us take the next big step toward delivering on this vision."

Microsoft plans an integrated shopping experience woven throughout the MSN services, including the Sidewalk city guide, the CarPoint online automotive service and the Expedia travel service.

Enhanced services will enable customers to search for merchants that carry specific products, seek out current promotions, or request notification when products or services of interest are available at a special price.

BizTalk will enable Internet-based and "brick-and-mortar" merchants and manufacturers of all sizes and to participate in MSN by giving them a common format for publishing information about their businesses, products and promotions to MSN and other consumer marketplaces on the Web. The service will be platform independent.

Microsoft Commerce Server and Small Business Commerce Services will provide native support for the BizTalk framework. The BizTalk effort is supported at launch by 800-FLOWERS, barnesandnoble.com, Best Buy Online Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Eddie Bauer Inc., Office Depot Inc. and Sharp Electronics Corp.

Microsoft Passport will offer single sign-in, registration and electronic wallet services to give consumers control of their personal information. Microsoft will extend Passport services across all MSN sites, the Hotmail Web-based e-mail service, the main Microsoft site and third-party sites that adhere to a strict privacy policy, which includes being licensed by privacy organizations such as TRUSTe or BBBOnline.