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Microsoft to open doors on shopping hub

Joining a host of companies indulging in pre-Christmas portal makeovers, the company plans to relaunch its MSN online shopping service tomorrow.

Joining a host of companies indulging in pre-Christmas portal makeovers, Microsoft plans to relaunch its MSN online shopping service tomorrow.

MSN Shopping is the latest in a string of new Web services previewed by the software giant in September to be launched this year.

During the September briefing, Microsoft executives presented the revamped shopping site, which included a price comparison guide, product reviews, a yellow page directory for local businesses, and links to MSN Auctions. Executives also previewed the ways MSN Shopping will be integrated into MSN Search results.

The move comes as Web companies are increasingly looking to build revenue streams outside of advertising by becoming transactional "hubs." Yahoo, America Online, and Lycos all offer similar e-commerce services.

For Microsoft, the MSN Shopping launch is part of a sweeping new Web strategy that has involved a leadership shake-up as well as the introduction of new services.

The company in September appointed former Silicon Graphics chief executive Richard Belluzzo to head its consumer and commerce group, which oversees Microsoft's Internet efforts and includes WebTV.

The company's other online plans include a revamp of the MSN search and directory site, which is now live; the introduction of a Web portal targeting small businesses, called "bCentral"; and a distribution scheme to popularize the recently launched MSN Messenger Service. MSN also plans to launch a group services and software tools for Web site and software developers.