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In the News

- MSN Joins Google, Yahoo! with Paid Search Results
- EU Antitrust Chief Has Unsettled Feeling About Microsoft
- TiVo Future Improves with Lucrative Comcast Deal

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

MSN Joins Google, Yahoo! with Paid Search Results

Microsoft executives will unveil a new MSN Search paid search-results feature that the company says is dramatically more sophisticated than anything Google or Yahoo! offers. The announcement is expected to come today at the sixth annual MSN Strategic Account Summit at the Microsoft campus. A pilot program of the new service, dubbed MSN adCenter, will run in France and Singapore over the next several months and will give advertisers valuable demographic information about users. Microsoft will use feedback from the pilot program to improve the service before rolling it out worldwide.
"Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit is one of the most important industry events of the year for advertisers, publishers, and creative agencies," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. "We are proud to host many of the top thought leaders from the advertising and media community, and join them in addressing how to interact and communicate with consumers in new and meaningful ways online."
The new service will give advertisers unprecedented access to MSN Search users, including information such as age, gender, geographic location, and so-called lifestyle characteristics. This information will let MSN charge advertisers more for users who are relevant to their businesses.
Privacy advocates, naturally, are concerned about the service, but Microsoft executives say that advertisers will receive only aggregate data, not individual users' names. Microsoft is moving Web advertising from "buying keywords to buying an audience," Microsoft Vice President Yusuf Mehdi told "The Wall Street Journal."
MSN adCenter has been in development for a year and a half, according to the company. The service will eventually tie together advertising across all of MSN's Web properties. "This is a one-stop shop for our advertisers," MSN Product Manager Karen Redetzki said.

EU Antitrust Chief Has Unsettled Feeling About Microsoft

European Union (EU) EU Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes said yesterday that the European Commission was still examining whether Microsoft was violating the terms of the 2004 EU antitrust ruling against the company. According to the ruling, Microsoft is required to pay a massive fine, release a version of Windows XP in Europe that doesn't include Windows Media Player (WMP), and give competitors server interoperability information.
To date, the company has yet to ship the XP version that doesn't include WMP, although it attempted to slip by in January with the bizarrely named XP Reduced Media Edition. However, the EU demurred, noting that the name was objectionable and would likely cause potential customers to avoid the product. In short, the name violated the spirit of the EU ruling, which requires Microsoft to not price or package the new Windows version in such a way that would make it less desirable to consumers.
Kroes said that the EU has finished test marketing new names for the WMP-less XP version but declined to announce which name was chosen. The Commission is also examining Microsoft's compliance with the server interoperability information condition and recently reported to the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee that it was too early to determine whether Microsoft was meeting its requirements.
In related news, the EU Court of First Instance, which will oversee Microsoft's antitrust trial, has approved the list of companies and organizations that will provide opinions for the case. The Court says that five organizations will support Microsoft, and four will support the Commission. Various trade groups are backing Microsoft, whereas companies such as RealNetworks and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) Europe will support the Commission. Dubbed intervenors by the Court, representatives of these organizations will provide live and written testimony in the case.

TiVo Future Improves with Lucrative Comcast Deal

Digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer TiVo has fallen on tough times lately, but a new deal with cable giant Comcast has caused a dramatic turnaround in both the company's stock price and its overall future. Under terms of a deal that was released yesterday, Comcast will begin marketing DVR set-top boxes to its customers next year that bear the TiVo brand and technology, providing users with a significantly improved experience over the basic DVR functionality that the cable company now offers.
"We are focused on providing our customers with a 21st Century television experience," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said. "TiVo has revolutionized the way consumers watch and access home entertainment. By partnering with TiVo, we are continuing to deliver technology that enables our customers to watch what they want when they want on TV. We look forward to working with TiVo to enhance our current service and offer customers the best-in-class DVR experience."
TiVo will develop new software for Comcast's DVR solution that includes the look and feel and functionality of TiVo's well-regarded system. Despite the rampant enthusiasm with which TiVo users promote the service to others, TiVo hasn't performed well in the market. Fewer than 7 million homes in the United States have any form of DVR solution, and just 3 million of those machines are running TiVo software. 97 million homes in the United States, meanwhile, have cable. So the deal with Comcast--the biggest cable provider in the country--is a huge win for TiVo, which could see adoption of its technology skyrocket as a result.
Previously, TiVo had rejected a less-lucrative deal with Comcast and had seen its biggest partner, satellite TV provider DirecTV, break off relations, choosing to go with a rival DVR service. These failures resulted in an executive exodus at the company and a steadily falling stock price. But yesterday's deal seems to have lifted TiVo, at least temporarily.

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