Microsoft, searching for serious commercial opportunities online, has relaunched its Sidewalk city guides as a shopping directory - but don?t hold your breath for a European launch.
Sidewalk, a ?Time Out? style guide to entertainment and arts in selected cities, was initially pitched against offerings from locally oriented Web sites and newspapers.
The revamped version, rebranded MSN Sidewalk, has a more commercial edge and is closer to a Yellow Pages online directory, providing a 'where to buy' service as well as entertainment options.
Microsoft, however, has postponed indefinitely plans to launch MSN Sidewalk beyond the US, aside from its Australian joint venture.
As well as listing products, Sidewalk will also offer side by side comparisons of products. Where possible, it will also channel users into other Microsoft online sites, such as Expedia for travel.
Microsoft claims Sidewalk is unique as there is currently no specific guide to shopping online, which is the fifth most popular activity on the Internet.
At the moment Microsoft is depending on advertising revenue to finance the venture, but analysts said they would not be surprised if the software giant eventually goes down a commission based route.
US cities that Sidewalk currently covers includes Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis-St Paul, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. Microsoft plans to add other US cities by purchasing databases.
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