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Expedia Delivers via MSN

Travelers can now received personalized travel information and even the latest on an impending flight, through a new deal signed between Expedia.com Inc. and software giant Microsoft Corp. .

Through the pact, Expedia users can access the travel information they want through an Expedia tab found within MSN Messenger. The Expedia tab can be personalized with Fare Tracker capabilities to view the lowest published fares on their favorite routes. The feature can also track currently booked itineraries in the "My Trips" section. Customers can also view current deals on flights, lodging, vacation packages, car rentals and cruises, as well as check the status of their flights.

Expedia.com is the first travel site to deliver this type of travel information to customers' desktops via MSN Messenger.

Also, Expedia.com members can receive alerts on the status of a flight from the Microsoft .NET Alerts service. When a flight is booked, users can choose both how far in advance of their flight time they wish to be alerted, and choose the device or devices where they want to receive the alert. Customers can also specify routing rules for alerts -- an important alert, such as a delayed flight, can be sent to a traveler's desktop when their Messenger status is "Online" and have the same alert routed to their cell phone when their Messenger status is "Away" or "Offline." The flight status alerts service is available for any leg of a trip.

To use the new service, travelers will need to have the latest version of MSN Messenger, which is available for free, to see the Expedia tab in the blue tab boxes in the bottom left corner of the application. The Expedia tab is currently available to users in the U.S. and the UK. Users will need to be signed up with .NET alerts to use the alert feature, which is currently available only in the U.S.

Through a computer (PC or Mac), wireless phone or pager, MSN Messenger provides real-time communications via instant messaging, file sharing, text paging to MSN Mobile devices, PC to phone calls, and, within Windows XP, voice conversations, videoconferences, data collaboration sessions, and remote assistance sessions.

Microsoft has brought other companies to the world of IM as well. Late last year, the software giant and Trans World Entertainment Corp. signed a deal to bring the FYE brand to Windows Messenger and MSN Messenger, via special clickable "tabs." Clicking on the FYE Messenger Tab will give users access to FYE's entire catalog of more than 200,000 music titles, 10,000 DVDs and 5,000 console games. Registered customers now have an enhanced personalized experience through genre recommendations, customized messages, alerts on new releases, top seller information and product offerings based on their personal preferences and interests.

Consumers can also catalog their music collections, share listings with friends, create wish lists, listen to music samples, and view movie trailers.

Expedia, which used to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft, is now majority owned by USA Networks Inc.'s Interactive Group. Just last month, USA Networks increased its Expedia holdings by $47 million with a stock purchase. With the buy, USA now holds almost 65% of Expedia's outstanding shares and will continue to control 94.9% of the voting interest in Expedia.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.