Microsoft developing Web entertainment service in US

Microsoft is developing a Web-based entertainment service that will offer US regional information on restaurants, movies and local events.

Microsoft is developing a Web-based entertainment service that will offer regional information on restaurants, movies and local events, according to a company official.

The project, code-named Cityscape, will make its debut in January with a few US cities, according to Gayle Troberman, public relations manager for Cityscape. Microsoft will also consider expanding the service outside of the US, she says. The service will combine national and locally produced content, Troberman says. In some cities, Microsoft will partner with local newspapers, while in others, it will develop its own content with its own editorial staff. It is already hiring for a number of editorial positions for the project, which has been in development for the past year, she says.

The service will be available free on the Web. It is separate from Microsoft Network (MSN), Microsoft's online service, but MSN users will be able to access the site. Cityscape is just one of Microsoft's many content initiatives, according to one analyst. Microsoft's 24-hour Web and cable television news venture with NBC, MSNBC, is scheduled to be launched on Monday on US cable stations and on the Web, and the company recently launched Slate, a Web-based current affairs magazine.

Cityscape will face competition from several sources, including America Online's Digital Cities project, and entertainment offerings from local newspapers on the Web. But that has not deterred Microsoft. "They're making a lot of bets and they figure one of these bets is going to win," says Bill Bass, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Microsoft can be reached on the Web at http://www.microsoft.com.

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