Microsoft still working on online branding issues

Microsoft is working on a way to combine all of its online services under a single Web page, rather than continue on with its confusing online presence involving multiple brands and services reached through many different portals.

The change will happen along with a streamlining of the branding, said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in response to a question from an analyst during the company's annual analyst get-together on Thursday.

Microsoft has been criticized for the introduction of the Live brand, which didn't fully replace the MSN brand, resulting in a confusing online presence for the company.

"The real question isn't the brand question. The real question is, If you type 'www. whatever-Microsoft-wants-you-to-see-first.com,' what does that page look like?" Ballmer said. "I don't think it's going to be a blank page."

Currently, Microsoft's Live.com page and Google's Google.com site are essentially blank apart from the search bar. While the search bar will remain central, the new main site will also include other components. "Given the monetization model, it has to predominantly feature search. At the same time, it should have a range of content tailored and directed at you," Ballmer said.

The analyst who asked the question suggested that if Microsoft integrates its online branding and has a single showcase for all of its services, the company might be able to show Internet users that its services are worth using. Microsoft trails Google by a wide margin in search and has struggled to keep up with competitors in some other online services.

The branding issue and the restructuring of a main page were put on "short-term hold" during Microsoft's discussions with Yahoo, because if that deal had gone through, the problem would have been different, Ballmer said.

In early June, a Microsoft executive speaking at an advertising conference in Seattle first mentioned that the company was planning to "fix" its online branding problem.

SMS: Microsoft is working on a way to combine its online services into a single Web page to solve its branding problem, CEO Steve Ballmer said Thursday.

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