Microsoft is getting into content in New Zealand, with this country among 24 set to gain local versions of Microsoft's MSN.com portal site by the end of the year.
When they launch, the new sites will serve strictly as portals, offering access to other World Wide Web locations, but will expand early next year to include free e-mail via Microsoft's Hotmail service, Web searching, Web communities and messenger service
Microsoft will also partner with the South China Morning Post, Der Spiegel and Le Monde for local-language stories in their own countries. In this country, Microsoft already has a relationship with the New Zealand Herald, which was among the first batch of content providers for the local launch of Microsoft's Active Channels.
"The Web lifestyle, as we call it, really has taken hold all over the world," said Nichole Hardy, Microsoft Network product manager. "It used to be that people would go on the Web to browse around and see the cool things they could find, but now people use it as a daily part of their lives to get things done."
The portals will be expanded to include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan. Additionally, a South American portal will serve Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Portals will be offered in these languages: both simplified and traditional Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
Additional expansion is expected based on how many people use the new sites and how much potential Microsoft assesses for growth in various countries and regions, Hardy said.
"The reason for doing this rather than having one big generic portal is that personal relevance is what is important to customers," she said. "The stuff that I care about is local information, to be able to personalise it to see the local sports team or the information that is relevant to me. A really good step toward that is local content in your language from the companies that you're used to ... That's really relevant to me because that's what I'd be looking at in the real world."
In a separate announcement last week, Microsoft also said it was working with St. Martin's Press, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC and Pan Macmillan Australia to publish a dictionary composed from one database of world English.
The dictionary will be published in American and British editions worldwide and in electronic and print versions on the same day in August of next year.
The dictionary will be published under Microsoft's Encarta brand, which has published an encyclopedia on CD-ROM since 1993.
The companies involved in the project plan an initial print run of more than 500,000 copies of the Encarta World English Dictionary, Microsoft said. The reference book will contain more than 3 million words and has been compiled by more than 250 lexicographers and advisors in 10 countries.