Microsoft Preps Windows Marketplace

From a link on the Windows Start button, customers will be able to access a one-stop shop for Microsoft and third-party software and services.

TORONTO—Microsoft is readying a new Web site its calling "Windows Marketplace" via which it plans to provide customers with drivers, applications and services from both Microsoft and its partners.

Company officials offered a bit of information on the forthcoming service during the Sunday morning keynote at Microsofts annual worldwide partner conference here.

Kevin Johnson, group vice president in charge of Microsofts worldwide sales, marketing and services, told show attendees that Microsoft will show preview the Windows Marketplace for show attendees. When Microsoft eventually deploys the Marketplace, it will allow customers to access it directly from the Windows Start button, Johnson said.

Windows Marketplace is akin to Office Online, Microsofts Office Web site, via which Microsoft offers Office users code samples, downloads, training and product information from both Microsoft and third-party partners, Microsoft officials said.

The Marketplace also will bear a resemblance to the Windows Catalog capability that Microsoft already offers on the Web. The Windows Catalog allows users to search for hardware and software that is compatible with Windows XP.

In an interview with Microsoft Watch after the morning keynotes, Johnson said the primary goal of the Windows Marketplace will be to "connect customer to partners." He declined to provide additional details on availability or specific functionality.

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But the Windows Marketplace also is expected to provide Microsoft with a way to more easily provide its users with access to third-party device drivers via a single site.

Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research, said Microsoft actually began testing the marketplace functionality in conjunction with Windows XP Service Pack 2 release candidate 2. He said RC2 installed a Windows Marketplace icon on testers Windows toolbars.

Wilcox said the Marketplace is expected to be aligned with Microsofts Windows Update site, helping to streamline the way that users obtain their product updates and drivers from both Microsoft and third-party software vendors.

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The Marketplace is part of Microsofts XP Reloaded Go-to-Market (GTM) program. XP Reloaded is all about showing XP users how to get more value out of their Windows XP software.

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