Microsoft Updates MSN on Phones

The company is unveiling MSN Mobile 2.0 at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association show this week. The new version offers real-time, on-demand information such as flight schedules, weather conditions, and sports scores. The initial release let you request only static Web-based information from your mobile phone.

Microsoft expects its wireless carrier partners to roll out MSN Mobile 2.0 in April. So far only Nextel, which largely services business users, has signed on.

MSN Mobile 2.0 extends the notification service of Version 1.0 to support Hotmail, says B.J. Riseland, MSN.com product manager. You can set up your MSN mobile account to notify you when you receive e-mail messages from specified people.

Where Am I Going Today?

MSN Mobile 2.0 also adds two-way services from MSN, such as access to the yellow pages, news, financial information, and entertainment. You can check travel itineraries you booked on Microsoft's Expedia site as well as verify the status of any flight and get door-to-door directions.

Signing up for MSN Mobile is easy. If you're already a member of MSN, you can use your existing user name and password. Otherwise, you need to complete a profile at the MSN Mobile site or on your phone. You choose a user name, password, address, and the specific content you wish to receive. But you need enter your ID only the first time you use the service, which saves your profile.

MSN Mobile provides the weather, news, and other information that is specific to your profile location. When you roam, you must enter a new zip code to get material about your new locale.

MSN Mobile becomes the default Web access for your phone. Nextel also offers categories of Web sites that have been reformatted for handsets. You can also go to another site by using your Web-enabled phone's microbrowser.

Not the Only Phone Portal

Microsoft and Nextel are not alone in offering personalized Web content on phones. Last week, GTE Wireless announced a similar service for its Wireless Application Protocol phone subscribers. GTE partners with Infospace to provide the MyGTEW portal, where you can choose your content. The site offers choices from stock quotes to e-mail, a calendar, and an address book. Sprint PCS also offers a similar service for its Internet-enabled customers. Sprint PCS WAP phones can get selected Web content from Yahoo.

MSN Mobile differs from the GTE/Infospace and Sprint/Yahoo offerings because it supports other non-PC devices, like the upcoming Pocket PC, which Microsoft is developing with several hardware partners. The units will run a version of Windows CE, and you'll be able to use the same MSN Mobile account information on your wireless phone and your Pocket PC, Riseland says.

Sprint and GTE provide Web services under their own brands, not that of the portal partner. MSN Mobile will carry the Microsoft name, although any carrier can offer it as its default phone line to the Web.

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