Though MSN continues to be a financial nonstarter, Microsoft is expecting that to change as it ramps the business up significantly. To help give the unit a shot in the arm, Microsoft is accelerating its development of adCenter, a new system for selling advertising within its search results, Liddell said.
AdCenter is Microsoft's answer to Google Inc.'s explosive success selling advertising linked to searches. Microsoft hopes to boost both the advertising revenue and the image of MSN Search, which now is ranked third behind the Google and Yahoo Inc. search engines in terms of visitors.
AdCenter is currently in trial deployments in several countries, including Singapore, France and the U.S., with the full launch expected by June. The company plans to hire 1,000 more employees before the end of the fiscal year to provide customer service for advertisers that use the new service, Liddell said. Microsoft also plans to roll out adCenter in more countries over the course of the year.
MSN also oversees Microsoft's "Live" hosted services business, which the company continues to promote as it adds new Web-based services to its portfolio. On Thursday, Microsoft also publicly announced a new research center, Live Labs, exclusively devoted to quickly developing and deploying new Web-based services and technologies.