At one point Microsoft appeared to be backing away from the MSN brand in favor of “Live.” That no longer seems to be the case. Today the company launched a new mobile portal, signaling what would appear to be a new commitment to the MSN brand, with Live as the subsidiary search brand. The look and feel of new portal closely resembles MSN.com but is optimized for a mobile environment.
It provides access to the range of Microsoft content and services, including Live Search, email, Messenger, Maps, news and so on in a single mobile destination. It apparently will work on all mobile phones with WAP browser capabilities (1.2 or greater) and detects the user’s phone to deliver pages optimally rendered for that device.
I tried it on a Windows Mobile phone and it was clear and easy to use. The “portal” concept may have lost resonance for some users online (vs. search). However it currently makes a great deal of sense in mobile, where search is considerably harder to use. Maps and Local Search, two important mobile content categories, are available “indirectly” through the search box at the top or as separate links on the “second” page of MSN Mobile.
Search results are federated, similar to Yahoo’s oneSearch. Here’s a search result for “Danny Sullivan,” for example. MSN Mobile will be ad-supported; however so far I was only able to find the Ingenio PPCall ads for some of the searches I conducted.
It is only currently available in the U.S. but will start rolling out in international markets later this year.