Microsoft Launches MSN Newsbot

Gretchen Gallen
REDMOND, Wash. -- Not a day after being hit by $62 million in punitive damages after a jury decided that the software giant infringed on a patent held by a printing software company, Microsoft launched the beta version of an automated news service on its MSN Internet portal.

In what is being seen as a direct offensive strike against search site competitor and former beau Google, Microsoft went public today with Newsbot for the U.S. and international markets that can customize the selection of breaking news stories per region and per individual user.

Newsbot's primary function is to aggregate headlines from 4,000 online sources and then summarize its findings to fit a particular user profile, similar to the customization technology used by Amazon.com. Microsoft intends to accomplish this by using tracking technology and consumer data gathered from users of its ePassport member service.

Headlines are clustered by topic and displayed based on algorithms, Microsoft said in a statement.

Overture will provide paid text ads on the main Newsbot page and on all subsequent search pages. Microsoft renewed its contract with Overture in October of this year to provide paid search listings to its MSN network until 2005.

Many industry analysts are saying that Microsoft's new MSN site could potentially spell trouble for Google, which gathers information in a similar way but does not customize results. In May of this year, Google launched international versions of its news search service.

After thwarting Microsoft's advances over a potential merger, it appears that the software king has gone its separate way and is hard at work creating its own search engine technology, which had originally been its underlying interest in Google.

The beta stage of MSN's Newsbot comes in four languages, the company said, including English, French, Italian, and Spanish. Additional languages will be added as the search service gets legs and develops a user base.

The site will debut on MSN UK, France, Spain, and Italy, the company announced, and is designed to blend with MSN's multi-purpose international presence.

Newsbot was developed as a joint initiative with Moreover Technologies, a news data source that has formed prior technology alliances with Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves.

Microsoft's week didn't start out so well after a jury decided that the software king had willfully infringed on a patent held by Imagexpo, LLC, a subsidiary of SPX Corp.

The suit had been pending since October 2002 and involved a patented technology that Microsoft was allegedly using in its real-time NetMeeting conferencing feature. Microsoft claimed that it had developed the technology in-house before including it in the Windows operating system.