Microsoft will debut a major redesign of its MSN consumer web portal with a new layout and navigation scheme optimized for the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
The redesigned MSN will go live on October 26, the same day that the Windows 8 OS and the new Internet Explorer 10 browser will be made available, Microsoft said on Monday.
This new version of MSN will be accessible only from devices running the new OS and browser. All other users will see the existing site.
"MSN for Windows 8 will not replace the current experience but rather, offer an enhanced version optimized for Windows 8 and IE10 users," a spokesman for Microsoft said via e-mail.
The new MSN portal will have the look and feel of the Windows 8 interface, formerly referred to as "Metro." This Windows 8 UI has been designed not only for use with traditional PC input devices but also with touch and styluses on tablets, all-in-one systems and "hybrid" laptops.
"We thought deeply about how you could interact with MSN in an increasingly touch and tablet-friendly world," wrote Bob Visse, MSN General Manager, in a blog post.
Visse also promised that this revamped version of MSN will be "blazing fast" because it takes advantage of how Windows 8 and IE 10 render complex pages and images and videos.
"The result is a cleaner more 'app-like' experience that allows you to use the Flip Ahead feature to swiftly jump from article to article with a simple gesture," he wrote, adding that the pages render twice as fast as in the existing MSN site.
"You can use the Snap feature to snap a given page to the side of screen -- say your favorite stock -- while you engage in another program or page," he wrote.
MSN is the latest Microsoft product to get its UI redesigned to follow that of Windows 8. Other Microsoft products whose UI are undergoing such a transformation include IE, end-user Office applications, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and server-side Office products, like SharePoint and Lync.
Microsoft has high expectations that with the tablet-friendly Windows 8 and applications it will be able to improve the currently weak position of its software for tablet devices, where it lags behind the iPad and Android devices, both among consumers and workplace users.
Microsoft also announced on Monday that it is building up an editorial operation called MSN News which will deliver short articles between 300 words and 500 words in length. The stories will be written by MSN News staffers, but content from Reuters, the Associated Press and other providers will also be used. Microsoft recently bowed out of MSNBC.com, selling its stake to NBC owner Comcast. Another spokesman for Microsoft declined to say whether the MSN News content will be used exclusively on the MSN site for Windows 8 and IE 10.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.