Microsoft's MSN gets a Metro makeover

Microsoft's MSN site is getting a new look, but there’s a catch. MSN will be redesigned to match the Windows 8 operating system's user interface, formerly know as "Metro". But the revamped design aesthetic will only be visible to those running a version of Windows 8. Those using earlier version of the Windows OS will not have direct access to revamped site design. Microsoft says the Windows 8 version of its MSN site goes live Oct. 26, the day Windows 8 goes on sale to the general public.

Microsoft announced the optimized MSN site Monday via a blog post adding the design was specifically for Windows 8 and RT users running the browser IE10.

The upgraded site will look like Metro, with a tiled user interface optimized for tablets but still usable with a keyboard and mouse. Those not using the most updated versions of Windows and IE will continue to see the site as is. The site currently draws more than 480 million visitors a month, according to Microsoft.

“MSN has always been about being the start hub for Microsoft’s Web content and will continue to be so with the new version of IE,” says Wes Miller, an analyst with the independent research firm Directions on Microsoft. “The redesign makes it so that it’s a great experience on Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, which are touch first.”

Redesigned MSN Money section

The announcement comes as Microsoft counts down the last few weeks before Windows 8’s release. Analysts have questioned the new operating system’s chances for success in light of the Windows 8 store’s slim pickings for apps. The Windows 8 store has about 2500 apps compared to the Android and iOS with 675,000 and 700,000 apps.

MSN General Manager Bob Visse wrote in the blog posting that the site will be a “full-screen experience that is clean, simple and built for touch.”

MSN will still feature a news hub with Associated Press and Reuters content as well as original reporting from a team of journalists called MSN News. Existing MSN sections such as entertainment and money will remain.

The redesign offers an “‘app-like’ experience that allows you to use the Flip Ahead feature to swiftly jump from article to article with a simple gesture,” Visse added.

MSN Snap feature

Readers can also use a Snap feature to tug a page to the side of your window while looking at another page in the main bar.

Miller says the MSN redesign will likely have little effect on user adoption of Windows 8. “I don’t think at the end of the day it’ll be a big deal one way or another,” Miller says. “This has been Microsoft’s M.O. for all of the Windows 8 development cycle: You talk about what’s coming but don’t release too much information about it. This gives them the big pop on launch day.”

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