Microsoft has fully overhauled its MSN portal to make it more deeply integrated with its other services. Alongside this, it will also be introducing a rebrand of its Bing mobile apps for Windows Phone, iOS and Android.
Announced today, the beta portal brings a much cleaner design with the aim of making it more useful for users; it also brings with it deeper integration of Microsoft services, touch optimization and a responsive design that resizes according to screen/device size.
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News (and other content – videos, how-tos, features etc.) won’t be produced in-house anymore, instead, Microsoft has more than 1,000 partners on board to deliver content on a range of topics for a global audience. Behind it all though is a push to maximize its MSN and Bing’s potential – until now they existed pretty much separately, but the beta now ties the two together.
In short, MSN wants to be your new home page, your daily go-to for anything you desire.
Want to add your Microsoft Health + Fitness information directly in the MSN portal? No problem. Want to search and book flights or hotels? Easy. Short on ideas for dinner? The Food + Drink section’s recipe section with integrated shopping lists can probably help you out.
“It’s a strong change in content direction for us, it’s a merging of Bing apps and the MSN website… It’s being mobile-first and cloud-first, as we are,” Steve Lynas, regional director of MSN, told us.
It’s this vision of a one-stop-shop that ties together devices, services and content that Microsoft is really aiming at.
These seamless cross-platform vision is facilitated by your Microsoft ID, provided you log in. If you do, all your changes and preferences are instantly synced across your different devices – you won’t need to enter that workout into Health + Fitness more than once, and you can view your daily data each morning on your desktop dashboard, if you want.
“It’s about cleanliness, balance, information – but it’s significantly about making life easier,” Lynas added.
To reflect the magnitude of the changes and bring the branding in line, Microsoft’s Bing mobile apps for iOS and Android will be revamped and rebranded ‘MSN’ over the coming months.
The new home page is customizable too – you can create new sections on topics that interest you and arrange them as you want. Again, these changes are mirrored in the relevant mobile apps too, so if you use the Bing Finance module on the MSN homepage, your stock selection changes will show up in the
Bing MSN Finance app.
Across the top of the screen, there’s integration with a range of Microsoft services, like Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive and (soon) Skype, as well as popular third-party services like Facebook and Twitter.
MSN UK’s Editor-in-Chief Dominic Eames told TNW that while content won’t be produced in house anymore (it’ll come from the likes of the New York Times, the Guardian, Sky News, Le Monde and the rest of that network of more than 1,000 content partners), there’s still a team of journalists behind the scenes curating the content.
We’re going to a content partnership model…these are some of the best media brands in the world – they’re not just print brands, some are digital-only, and we’re negotiating with more all the time.
This is a complete reinvention, every pixel that you can see is new.
Curating that content will be the key to securing a long-term news readership – plenty of services offer news curation nowadays, but Microsoft will want to make the most of its 450 million unique users per month. In the UK, it reaches 40 percent of the online population. Clearly, with that comes responsibility in its choice of stories to highlight, but Eames assures us that there’s no Microsoft agenda behind the news decisions.
“We have feeds of content coming in from partners and we will curate the best content – what’s quite interesting is because we have global sources of content, we can provide global perspectives as well,” Eames said.
The only situation in which the team will still produce content will be the result of commercial deals, a spokesperson told us.
And how will Microsoft be judging this project? What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), if you will?
“Our KPI is engagement, it’s as simple as that. We want people to believe in it and find that it does make their life different. It’s full of trusted resources, it’s a well-designed platform and engagement has to be our key,” Lynas said.
The beta is available to access now and the full launch will be “in the coming months, before the end of the year”, a spokesperson confirmed.
Image credit: Jon Russell/Flickr