Microsoft revamps MSN, integrates with productivity tools

Microsoft has signed up over 1,300 content providers for MSN

Microsoft has unveiled its revamped MSN portal that combines easy access to personal productivity tools and content from a large number of providers.

As the company tries to revive MSN, the focus this time is also on top content from the Web instead of offering original content. For the relaunch, the company has signed up with over 1,300 publishers worldwide including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Yomiuri, CNN and The Guardian.

A "Services Stripe" at the top of the MSN homepage gives users easy access to personal services including Outlook.com email, OneDrive, Office 365 and Skype, as well as popular third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook, according to an online preview provided by Microsoft on Sunday.

The new MSN also provides "actionable information" and content and personal productivity tools such as shopping lists, a savings calculator, a symptom checker, and a 3D body explorer. Readers will have access to content from 11 sections including sports, news, health and fitness, money, travel and video, wrote Frank Holland, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, in a blog post.

The company said it has rebuilt MSN from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. The new MSN helps people complete their key digital tasks across all of their devices, wrote Brian MacDonald, Microsoft's corporate vice president for information and content experiences, in a blog post.

"Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are," MacDonald added. Users worldwide can try out the new MSN preview.

In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement its corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps. "You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences," MacDonald wrote.

Microsoft claims an audience of more than 437 million people across 50 countries for MSN.

MSN.com ranks number 26 among the top sites in the U.S., behind Microsoft's own Bing site, Google's search site, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo's portal, according to traffic estimates by Alexa. The one-month rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and page views over the past month.

Microsoft didn't say when the new MSN will come out of its preview phase.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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