LOS ANGELES—Microsoft Corp. here on Tuesday quietly launched its new shopping portal for hardware and software, which the company claims will not be used to promote its own products.
Instead, the Windows Marketplace will serve as a "virtual storefront" for hardware and software, said Dee Dee Walsh, director of the site for Microsoft. More than 93,000 products will be offered, she said, including products from Microsofts competition.
Microsoft will not receive revenues from sales of products sold through Windows Marketplace, however, Walsh said. Instead, the site will serve as a portal for retail partners. The site will provide reviews from the site users themselves, much like Amazon.com. Microsoft employees will moderate forums and explain how to connect everything together, she said. Eventually, the site will be more tightly integrated with the rest of Microsofts other online properties, including MSN, whose engineers designed the site.
"For customers, this can be a little overwhelming," Walsh said of the experience of buying and selling hardware and software. "We want to make it easy to find everything."
Microsoft announced its plans in July.
Indirectly, Windows Marketplace will challenge a variety of sites, including the shopping options offered by eWEEK.com parent Ziff Davis Media as well as CNET Networks and other review-oriented sites. Froogle, published by search site Google.com, allows consumers to search from a variety of different resellers for the best price on a specific product, but does not offer reviews or comparative information.
Users will also be able to download software directly from the site.
The site aims to provide smaller vendors with the "face time" that brick-and-mortar retailers cannot or are not willing to provide. Asked to explain how one of 72 different packages of wedding planner software would be given priority placement, Walsh said that a "proprietary algorithm based on keystrokes" would be used, developed by Microsofts research division. "Everything is objective," she said.
To prove the point, Walsh showed an example screen that highlighted Corel Draw, a nominal competitor to Microsofts own Producer products.
In the future, Microsoft will include "landing pages" that direct shoppers from the MSN pages and other pages on its site to the Windows Marketplace, Walsh said. An early version of the site also included ratings of resellers, similar to ResellerRatings, which provides a simple way for consumers to judge which resellers they should buy from. Windows Marketplace will also be more tightly integrated with MSN Music in the future, she said.
Walsh did not disclose how many resellers and retailers Microsoft hoped to partner with in the future, although they will not be charged a fee. Initial partners include Best Buy and other retailers.
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