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Microsoft unveils MSN makeover, rebranded apps

The new site promises news and other content from around the world and a simple way to personalize what you want to see.

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Microsoft's new MSN website. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft has given its MSN website a major face-lift, with the revamp currently rolling out to all users of the site.

As of Monday, the new site has started appearing for more than the 425 million people worldwide that visit it each month, according to Microsoft. With the new site in preview mode over the past few weeks, Microsoft said it listened to the feedback from the almost 10 million people who checked it out in order to implement the current changes.

Born in 1995, MSN, short for Microsoft Network, started as an online service for Windows 95. Over the years the site has transformed into a portal to various Microsoft services as well as a way to deliver the latest news in the worlds of entertainment, sports, health and fitness, and travel.

The new MSN site offers you an easier way to access all of your Microsoft services. The top of the homepage provides links to Outlook.com, Office Online, OneNote, OneDrive, Maps, Xbox Music and Skype. Microsoft also included links to such popular third-party sites as Facebook and Twitter.

Simply log into the MSN site with your Microsoft account, and you can quickly access your various accounts and services. For example, hover over the Office link, and you'll see your most recent Office documents. Hover over the OneDrive link, and up pops the folders for your OneDrive account. Click on the link itself, and Microsoft whisks you away to that specific service. The access is quite convenient for anyone heavily tied into Microsoft's different services, such as Outlook and OneDrive.

Links near the top of the homepage take you to the latest stories on general news, entertainment, sports and other topics. Below that are headlines to the top news stories as they occur. In a blog posted Monday announcing the changes, Microsoft touted the news content available on the new page:

With the new MSN, we focused on bringing the best-in-class content from the leaders in both content and data from around the world. In the U.S., 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 showcase The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun in Japan; Sky News, The Guardian and the Telegraph in the United Kingdom, NDTV and Hindustan Times in India, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, and many more.

Scroll further down the homepage, and you'll see the different sections for news, sports, money and other categories. You can easily customize the homepage and the content you see by adding or removing the sections for any category. You can then then move a certain section up or down in the page depending on your preferred order. You can also set the MSN page as your browser's homepage.

The MSN name and the new experience extends to many of the built-in apps in Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft's mobile operating system, including those now dubbed MSN Money, MSN Weather, MSN Sports and MSN News. The experience itself also touches many of the same apps in Windows 8.1, though Microsoft decided to keep the Bing name alive in its desktop OS. Microsoft is also promising complementary MSN apps for people using Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems in the coming months.

"With today's release, we now have one unified, consistent Azure-powered experience that spans the apps on your Windows 8.1 device to MSN in the cloud," Microsoft explained. "While Bing will continue to provide search and intelligent experiences, now the apps will be branded to reflect their alignment with MSN as a premium experience for content, combined with personal productivity features. Aside from Bing Finance, which will now be MSN Money, all of the apps retain their existing names."

Microsoft is also playing up the new MSN experience as geared toward a "cloud-first, mobile-first world." As such, you'll be able to customize certain content and preferences not just on the Web or in Windows but across other platforms and devices.