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MSN Web redesign due today

Microsoft's redesign will introduce new features, such as a message center that displays a user's new Hotmail messages. A new version of the controversial MSN Messenger will also debut.

Microsoft today will unveil a redesign of its MSN Web portal and launch new services on the network, while introducing a revised version of its controversial instant messaging program.

The redesign, released today in preview mode, will debut features such as a Message Center that displays a user's new Hotmail messages, online buddies from MSN Messenger, and community lists. MSN will officially premiere the redesign at Comdex next week.

Microsoft will also introduce a new version of its MSN Messenger service, the company's instant messaging client. The service made headlines when it began allowing users to communicate with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users. AOL criticized the move as a hack into its system and blocked Messenger's access; Microsoft returned fire, claiming AOL was not working up to industry standards.

Microsoft has not decided whether to make the new MSN Messenger interoperable with AIM, according to Deanna Sanford, lead product manager at MSN. "We're still evaluating that," Sanford said.

The new MSN Messenger will officially launch next week.

Today's moves come as Microsoft continues revamping its long-staggering Internet strategy, as previously reported. Last week, the software giant debuted an online shopping site called eShop, which allows users to purchase gifts from multiple retailers, compare prices, and read consumer reviews.

MSN Web Communities went live yesterday. The product allows users to create and design shared Web pages replete with communications tools, such as email and message boards.

Microsoft previewed selected features of its upcoming services during a September briefing of financial analysts and journalists. During the briefing, the company outlined its plans to turn MSN into a distribution point for Web software services, such as Hotmail and its site registration technology MSN Passport.

Early next year, Microsoft is expected to launch its MSN Calendar product, developed through its acquisition of Jump Networks.