Expanding its reach into new content services, Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday acknowledged that its MSN division will launch a beta of its blogging service next week. However, the new service will be offered only in Japan.
MSN officials said they have no information on when Microsoft plans to broaden the beta to the rest of the world. In addition, MSN also has not said when it plans to offer the service commercially.
"We are very much thinking of this as an incubation project," said an MSN spokeswoman. "Japan was our chosen market for this service due to usage of mobile data and mobile blogging, but also the high level of customer interest in PC blogging and online communities."
The new MSN will allow customers to construct and author Web logs. The spokeswoman said she was not sure if MSN also will host customers blogs as part of the service.
Separately, MSN also is working on a blog search service, MSN Blogbot that is expected to go live within the next few months.
Some industry watchers said they see Microsofts move into blogging as a counteroffensive against MSN archrival Google. Earlier this year, Google purchased Pyra Labs, the San Francisco-based vendor behind the Blogger blog-authoring platform.
MSN blogging isnt the only service that Microsoft has chosen to pioneer in Japan.
Last week at the annual Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting, company officials said Microsoft is beta-testing a new electronic-business-card-exchange service currently called Microsoft Office Interconnect.
Microsoft foreshadowed its plan to expand its panoply of IT services, many of which it will target at small-business customers, earlier this summer.
Meanwhile, on the search service front, Christopher Payne, vice president of MSN Search, told attendees Wednesday at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose, Calif., that desktop search is one of Microsofts top priorities as MSN moves forward with plans to launch its own algorithmic search engine technology.
"Well be launching later this year the ability not only to search the Web but also to search the desktop," said Payne, during a panel of executives from the top Web search engines, except Google "For users its disappointing to them that its harder to get to an e-mail in Outlook or an Exchange store than to get a Web file."
Matt Hicks, eWEEK.com contributed to this report.