Microsoft has today released details of new client software for its MSN service featuring tighter integration with its other internet-based services.
The new MSN Explorer (formerly called next-generation MSN) is central to a worldwide update to MSN due this autumn.
A portal and browser in one, MSN Explorer integrates Internet Explorer browser software, Outlook Express and Windows Media Player with Hotmail and other services. It also includes calendar, messenger and search services.
Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of MSN marketing at Microsoft, said: "In particular, MSN Explorer delivers two clear benefits for consumers: the easiest way to sign up and get on the internet; and a personalised home base on the internet."
The software also features a fresh user interface featuring single-click access to services and tools to migrate from other internet service providers.
Single authentication, giving users access to multiple sites with a single login, and features to personalise a user's experience of using the internet, such as a customisable home page and sidebar, have also been incorporated.
Digital audio and video capabilities are offered through a music button giving access to the My Radio feature and the integrated Windows Media Player. In addition, users can easily create home pages, photo albums, file cabinets and more using the MSN custom websites feature.
A preview version will be publicly available early next week and can be downloaded at http://preview.msn.com.
The final version is expected to be available later this autumn as part of a wide-ranging revamp of MSN's content and services that will also see major updates to its internet and broadband access. MSN Explorer is the first consumer delivery based on the .Net initiative, Microsoft's vision for the future of the PC and the web.
Mitul Mehta, managing director at independent consultants TekPlus, said Microsoft was developing MSN as a delivery channel for application service provider (ASP) services to customers.
"As Microsoft goes towards its .Net strategy it will be setting up a number of ASP delivery channels. With the amount of eyeballs MSN gets it makes sense to incorporate this into its consumer ASP offering," he said.
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