Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., will offer free software to help advertisers design rich-media ads, including tools to port TV spots to the Web. Microsoft will make the software available to rival sites, but it's unclear how receptive rivals will be. Jim Kinsella, general manager of MSN sales, said the key goal behind the move is to drive advertising to MSN, though he said Microsoft also wants to cut the cost of producing rich ads. This is the latest time Microsoft has given away software to gain market share; its 1995 move to give away Internet Explorer effectively turned the browser market into a zero-revenue business.
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Youth clothing company Wet Seal today launches a Web site, www.blueasphalt.com, to sell its Blue Asphalt clothing line. Ice Inc., Rochester, New York, developed the site. . . . Intel Corp. will require some 200 sites that run its "Intel Inside" ads to tell consumers that personal and demographic data are being collected about them. . . . . Flycast Communications Corp. plans to launch an online e-mail marketing division, Flycast eDispatch, that will enable marketers