Xtra and Microsoft still eyeing each other up

Xtra may yet become a partner in Microsoft's new national Web portal, but it is emphasising that if it does take the plunge, the Microsoft Network site would complement, not replace its own content. Apart from NineMSN, an established joint venture between Microsoft and Australia's Channel Nine, all Microsoft's New Zealand content partners originally signed up as Active Channel providers for the release of IE 4.0 last year.

Xtra may yet become a partner in Microsoft's new national Web portal, but it is emphasising that if it does take the plunge, the Microsoft Network site would complement, not replace its own content.

Apart from NineMSN, an established joint venture between Microsoft and Australia's Channel Nine, all Microsoft's New Zealand content partners originally signed up as Active Channel providers for the release of IE 4.0 last year.

Confirmed so far are the National Business Review, the TAB, TVNZ, news aggregator NZCity and, probably, Jason's Travel. A spokesman at the other leading Active Channel provider, the New Zealand Herald, could not be reached for comment at press time.

Microsoft Internet business manager Terry Allen has been working on the project, which is part of a Microsoft strategy being replicated in 24 countries, for the last four months. The local site will use the domain msn.co.nz, which was registered with Domainz on August 20, but will initially be hosted from the US and only later moved here. It should launch by the end of this month.

Allen confirms there have been talks with Xtra, "but we haven't determined whether it's a good fit for either of us."

Telecom spokesman Glenn Sowry says Xtra "has a policy of partnering as part of its content strategy" and "has had discussions with Microsoft and will continue to do so, but there have been no decisions yet.

He emphasises that if Xtra was to become part of the Microsoft Network portal project, "it would in no way conflict with our own local content strategy - any new content involved here would complement rather than replace Xtra's own offerings."

The site will also feature a search function based on the Inktomi engine (the same as that used by HotBot), new weather and access to Hotmail, the Web-based mail service recently acquired by Microsoft. An idea of how it will look can be had at http://home.microsoft.com.

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