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MSN portal boosts finance content

Microsoft will launch a personal finance service on its MSN.com portal in answer to Web sites such as Quicken.com.

Microsoft is expected to launch a personal finance service on its MSN.com portal in answer to Web sites such as Quicken.com, according to sources close to the company.

The move comes on the heels of significant changes in Microsoft's bid to take on portal heavyweights Yahoo and America Online. This week, a redesigned version of MSN emerged out of beta, as did its Inktomi-powered search engine MSN Web Search.

The finance site, which will launched next Wednesday, will be incorporated into MSN's personal finance channel called "Money Central," according to the source. The service will integrate existing Microsoft financial features into one offering, including equity investment guide MSN Investor, personal finance and investing service Money Insider, and real estate resource MSN HomeAdvisor.

Money Central will also feature news headlines currently aggregated on Investor, as well as its premium subscription-based content. Microsoft also will maintain Investor as an entity independent of MSN, the source said.

MSN's launch of Money Central is Redmond's latest attempt to challenge a space that has been occupied by home finance software arch-rival Intuit and a growing number of financial institutions that are creating their own financial Web services.

Its decision to launch a channel containing predominately Microsoft content harks back to the days when MSN was a proprietary service that contained members-only content.

MSN eventually made the decision to move content out from behind its firewall, and has since heavily touted its free, ad-driven Web properties such as HomeAdvisor, car buying resource CarPoint, NBC joint venture news site MSNBC, and free Web email service Hotmail, among others.

Microsoft's Web portal project has undergone a number of changes since focusing its efforts on the free Web space. Formerly code-named Microsoft Start, the project was reincarnated the MSN brand shortly before beta launch. Since then, Microsoft has been slowly releasing other service perks to beef itself up and try to catch the portal race leaders.