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Sidewalk steps out April 3

Microsoft reveals the tightly held debut date for its Sidewalk city directory service. Seattle is the belle of the ball.

Microsoft (MSFT) plans to jump into the city directory business on April 3, launching Sidewalk for its hometown turf of Seattle, company executives told CNET today.

Although the software giant has been gearing up for the city directory rollout for months, the launch date had been kept under wraps until today. Later, Sidewalk will launch sites for New York, Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington D.C., San Diego, and Sydney, Australia.

"Sidewalk is your city guide to entertainment, published by Microsoft," the company's Web site reads. "Sidewalk is personalized. You pick the topics--restaurants, movies, music, the arts. We'll sort through the possibilities and bring the best directly to you."

Yet the company will find that competitors already have local sites in place. This week, for example, US West Interactive launched DiveIn in ten U.S. cities, including Seattle. In addition, Digital City will detail its plans to migrate to the Web next month. CitySearch and Yahoo also are expanding their city directories.

Microsoft hopes to make its content stand out by offering more depth and detail, however. Some media critics have questioned whether Microsoft has the expertise to deliver editorial content as effectively as software products.

Microsoft recently released a list of nine national advertisers that would support its launch, including Bank of America and Seafirst Bank, Barnes & Noble, BMW of North America, CitiBank, Club Med Sales, Prudential Real Estate, United Airlines, and Visa U.S.A.