The New MSN is Here. Bing Content Apps Re-branded.

msn-main-page-without-signin

That’s right, folks. You have not woken up in the 90’s all of a sudden. In a post on September 7 on the Official Microsoft Blog, officials at the company announced a new preview of their MSN portal. In addition, a big re-branding is planned, where all the Bing apps on Windows and Windows Phone will be renamed to corresponding MSN versions. Finally, these MSN apps will also expand to iOS and Android, reflecting the new philosophy at Microsoft where their own platform is just another platform.

The new MSN

The new site at preview.msn.com is a cleaner, fresher and adjusts according to the screen size (“responsive design”). The busy front page is gone and is now replaced with a main “top stories” panel with large pictures along with a few smaller units for other top news.  Of course, there is a big ad space to the right.

New msn main page
New msn main page

 

As you scroll down, you see the normal sections for content: News, Entertainment, Sports, Money, Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Travel, Autos, and lastly, a section for Video. These sections can be moved up or down, or removed completely. Other sections can be added, from the following: Movies, TV, Music, World, US, Tech & Science and Politics.

New msn: Other sections
New msn: Other sections

 

New msn: Remove or move section
New msn: Remove or move section

 

Services strip and sections

Along the top, there is a strip of information, with quick access to various Microsoft and non-Microsoft services. This includes Outlook.com email, Office Online documents, OneNote notebooks, OneDrive storage, Maps, Xbox Music, Skype and optionally, Facebook and Twitter. For Facebook and Twitter, you have to not just sign in to Microsoft account, but also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts. I am not sure why this information is not derived from the existing Microsoft account, where at least in my case, I already have a link established to Facebook, Twitter and others. Below the services strip is a simple navigation link to access sections in your page directly and quickly.

New msn: Services access
New msn: Services access

 

When you mouse over the various services, you get a quick preview of what’s appropriate for the service, like the top 3 emails from your Outlook.com inbox, or recently used Office Online files, OneNote notebooks, and as you will see below, a map of the current location, files and folders from OneDrive, or latest tweets from Twitter.

 

New msn: Maps dropdown
New msn: Maps dropdown
New msn: OneDrive dropdown
New msn: OneDrive dropdown
New msn: Twitter dropdown
New msn: Twitter dropdown

 

Bing Favorites

As mentioned above, the Bing content apps that exist today on Windows and Windows Phone are going to be re-branded to MSN. As a first step in that process, the new msn has Favorites from Bing imported automatically, based on the Microsoft account used. So for example, my favorite sports teams showed up as Favorites in the Sports section, my watch list showed up under Finance, etc.

Don’t judge me, I liked the 49ers until they hired Harbaugh. That’s perhaps because I like USC and he has a history when he was at Stanford with the then USC coach whom I liked. And that’s going to explain why I like the Seahawks :-)

 

New msn: Favorites imported from Bing
New msn: Favorites imported from Bing

 

Actionable items

In addition to serving content from a variety of sources, the new msn also includes sections where you can gain some actionable insights. For example, there is a symptom checker in Health & Fitness, as well as a 3D Human Body in the same section.

 

New msn: 3D Human Body
New msn: 3D Human Body
New msn: Symptom checker
New msn: Symptom checker

 

Top-tier sources and iOS/Android

Per the announcement, the content on the new msn comes from a variety of top-tier sources.

We’ve partnered with the world’s best to deliver on this goal:

  • In the US, some of our premier partners include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, AOL (including TechCrunch and Huffington Post) and Condé Nast (including Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Bon Appétit).

  • Worldwide, we’re excited to include The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun in Japan; Sky News, The Guardian and the Telegraph in the UK, NDTV and Hindustan Times in India, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, and many more.

Along with the new preview, Microsoft is also preparing to launch iOS and Android apps like the ones that exist on Windows and Windows Phone. These iOS and Android apps will roam Favorites and keep content in sync much like the connectedness of Windows and Windows Phone apps. This way, Microsoft is ensuring that no matter which device you use at any time of the day, you have the premier experience with consuming and using the msn content.

I like the new msn, except for the brand name itself. I am not sure the negativity around “msn” is as much as it is around “Internet Explorer” and we know how badly Microsoft and IE teams are trying to paint a brighter image of the latter. It is unclear why the “msn” brand is the one that Microsoft chose to continue with rather than coming up with a new brand or reusing the Bing brand. In any case, time will tell if the branding is right or not.

Have you set preview.msn.com as your home page?

Microsoft Announces an All New MSN for Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft has announced a radical refresh of MSN, one of the most popular media destinations on the Internet, with the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft’s flagship website gets about 480 million visitors per month worldwide and is one of the biggest portals on the Internet. The new version is built from the ground up to harness the capabilities that Windows 8 and IE10 offer and built for touch.

The new MSN is a full-screen experience and the user experience is clean and intuitive. Because Internet Explorer 10 was designed to take advantage of the system architecture of Windows 8, Microsoft promises blazing fast speed along with the consistent visual layout providing instant access to the information you want.

Microsoft also intends to establish itself as a small media operation creating its own content. While MSN would aggregate news from premier sources like Reuters and Associated Press, it has been building up a news team on its own. Microsoft sold its 50% stake in news website MSNBC.com in July to NBCUniversal, and hence would focus all the capabilities in content creation and aggregation here.

The updated site would be available from October 26, the official launch date of Windows 8. Here are a few expectations that I’d have from the rollout:

  • The design is rolled out to all MSN sites globally simultaneously. Several worldwide MSN sites are slow to adapt a design update.
  • The design is consistent across all sections and sub-sites. Even after the last design refresh, few sections of MSN continue to live with the older design.
  • While Reuters and Associated Press are as good as news sources can get, I’d like to see more content partnerships for lifestyle and other channels; something like MSN Health.

Microsoft and NBC Split Up, MSNBC.com Now NBCnews.com

MSNBC Now NBC News

As of yesterday, July 14th, 2012, Microsoft has agreed to give NBC full control of MSNBC.com. Because of this, NBC is rebranding the site to NBCnews.com. The domain switch has already taken place but MSNBC.com will redirect to NBCnews.com for the time being. For the past 16 years Microsoft owned 50% of MSNBC, however, neither of the companies have disclosed how much the shares were sold for.

As of now, about half of NBC’s staff is located on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington  and will have to be moved to New York City where NBC’s headquarters is located. Because of this, NBC has stated that one of the biggest jobs will be to merge their web staff with their NBC News staff in New York. However, some of NBC’s staff will stay in the Seattle area at NBC’s new “NBC News Innovation Center”. This center will cover the technical end of NBC and will work to develop new technologies for the network.

If you’re unaware, Microsoft and NBC formed the MSNBC joint venture in 1996. Microsoft sold their shares of MSNBC TV back in 2005 but decided to stay partial owner of the website until now. When Microsoft and NBC announced the service, MSNBC was a $600 million joint venture.

Source: NBC News

MSN Health Re-launched as Healthy Living; Fresh Design and Great Content

MSN Health, the health and wellness channel on MSN, has transitioned to MSN Healthy Living. The new site features a vibrant visual design with focused content that helps readers live life more healthfully.

The fresh experience features content from independent health experts and bloggers as well as trusted and award-winning content providers like Prevention, Health.com, HealthDay, EatingWell, Self, and more. It is curated to be the online destination for people to connect with timely and relevant trends in wellness topics, as well as expert advice on diseases, health conditions and caregiving.

The site features content across diverse categories – News, Wellness, Diet & Fitness, Nutrition, Pregnancy & Parenting, Diseases & Conditions – and includes related videos. While MSN Healthy Living doesn’t provide medical or other health care advice, diagnosis or treatment, it is a definitive and credible source of information on health and fitness with exclusive medically reviewed health content. The site’s Medical Advisory Board provides expert professional perspectives on emerging trends in disease treatment and condition management, as well as guidance for preventative health care options.

Turkish Hacker Hijacks Hotmail.co.il and MSN.co.il

A few hours back, the Israeli Hotmail and MSN webpages were hijacked by a Turkish hacker to display a pro-Palestinian message. According to Softpedia, the nameservers and administrative email addresses were changed. Instead of redirecting to the usual login.live.com and il.msn.com, the viewers were redirected to the page pictured below.

MSN-Hotmail-Hacked

Microsoft has regained control of the respective domain names and both the sites are currently operating normally. Microsoft has yet to respond to the hijacking and for now, the method used by the hacker to pull of this feat remains unknown. The most obvious possibility is that he used stolen credentials. However, KISS philosophy doesn’t always work. If you have any idea, don’t hesitate to share it with us.

aMSN: An MSN Messenger Clone That Is Better Than The Original

To start with, aMSN is an exact clone of MSN Messenger offering the same functionality and even the same look and feel. It lets you chat, transfer files, arrange contacts in groups, save chat logs, set automated away messages, do conferencing, use web cam and almost all the other good stuff that the original MSN Messenger allows you to. However, there are many features that make this clone almost better than the original MSN:

  • Multi OS Support. Works with Windows, Mac OS, Linux and even Nokia N900.
  • Multi language support: currently in over 40 languages.
  • Multi-account sign in.
  • Over 25 different skins to choose from.
  • Much lighter and quicker to install than MSN.
  • Lots of third-party plug-ins to customize the functionality.
  • Time stamping and tabbed chat windows.
  • Dual display pictures.
  • You can create your own plug-in.

MSN Messenger Clone

These are just some of the features that, to me, make aMSN a much better candidate to use than the original MSN Messenger. Of course there are other uses of it too for example if your school/office doesn’t allow you to install MSN or if the original MSN messes up your OS. To me, the simple fact that it is such a light-weight alternative is good enough to make the switch.

Download aMSN here. [Via ilovefreesoftware]