XtraMSN portal launches today

The launch of what promises to be the country's largest website has been brought forward. Users can visit the XtraMSN portal from today.

The launch of what promises to be the country’s largest website has been brought forward. Users can visit the XtraMSN portal from today.

The site combines Xtra’s New Zealand-centric news and information with Microsoft’s web-services, like Hotmail, Messenger, Chat and Communities.

"Combining the two sites will make it even easier for kiwis to find their favourite features on the Net. Our focus has been on how we can help New Zealand Net users get the most from their time online," says Xtra's consumer general manager Rod Snodgrass.

Snodgrass expects the site to see around 735,000 unique users will visit XtraMSN in the first month. He says the new site will be easier to navigate and have more news than either Xtra or MSN in New Zealand have in the past.

The site merger was announced in May and was expected to take three months to launch, however many late nights have seen the launch date brought forward.

“I think the coffee budget has been a tad high this last few weeks,” says Xtra spokesperson Matt Bostwick.

The portal promises a way out for Microsoft from its policy of having MSN in New Zealand managed by the Australian joint venture, NineMSN, which has devoted relatively little energy to its trans-Tasman responsibilities. Xtra will manage the operation, development and marketing of the new consumer portal.

Microsoft says it will take up $NZ300 million in convertible notes issued by Telecom. The new securities, with a seven-year maturity, may be converted to ordinary shares by Microsoft.

There has been no announcement as yet on who the general manager of XtraMSN will be, but an “advisory board” will be appointed that will include Microsoft and Telecom people.

Microsoft New Zealand also doesn’t rule out charging for advanced services in future. In the UK MSN has announced it will begin charging a subscription fee of roughly $180 a year. Microsoft New Zealand spokesman Paul Muckleston, who will sit on a planned advisory board, says that while Microsoft is exploring additional services over and above the basic options on offer, there are currently no plans on the drawing board in relation to XtraMSN. The company is, however, keeping an eye on overseas developments.

“We will want to look at things like subscription-funded services in the fullness of time, but it is a long way off," he says.

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