The deal, which will also offer cross-promotional opportunities for both companies across different media, is the second such strategic alliance Microsoft has debuted in recent weeks. Its other deal, with Qwest Communications, involved marketing MSN Internet access to Qwest customers' via that company's high-speed broadband network.
The MSN and United pact involves developing a co-branded Internet access service and a customized version of MSN Explorer specifically geared to United customers. The deal makes United an exclusive provider on the MSN network. By fall, travelers will be able to access the co-branded portal to check their air miles, book trips online, access real-time flight and gate information and other data.
The deal is a further extension of Microsoft's strategy to use MSN as a vehicle for providing online consumer and business services.
Microsoft and United plan to co-market the alliance online and offline across a variety of media including in-flight videos, United's Hemispheres magazine, direct mail, e-mail and newsletters.
Microsoft is expected to announce another marketing alliance, with Handspring, the marketer of the Visor handheld that runs on the Palm operating system. The deal with Handspring involves the company's souped-up Blazer Web browser, which will incorporate content powered by Microsoft's MSN Mobile. -- Tobi Elkin
Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.