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Microsoft

Microsoft Corporation is one of the world’s biggest software makers and manufactures and licenses a range of products and services related to computing. Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the company is probably best known for its Windows software, although it has begun an aggressive drive into the mobile sector seeking to make inroads on market share held by Google and Apple. It paid 5.44 billion euros for the handset business of Nokia in September 2013.

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Microsoft axes freelancers, contract writers at MSN

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 10:38am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 10:38am

Microsoft is laying off dozens of contract and freelance writers from its MSN news and entertainment portal as the giant software company seeks to reshape itself as a devices and services company.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed the layoffs but declined to specify the number or comment further. A person familiar with the situation said the cuts could affect more than 100 people in all.

The pruning of MSN writers, who contribute end edit columns, blogs and features to the site, comes just two months after Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced a radical reorganisation of the company, which is only now starting to take effect.

Microsoft’s online services unit, chiefly consisting of the Bing search engine and MSN portal, is in line for a shake-up as it has never been profitable and has lost almost US$3 billion in the last two years alone. Some investors have pressed for a sale of the unit.

MSN was merged with Bing Apps, which also produces news, weather and other content, in the July reorganisation under new head Brian MacDonald.

While MSN is cutting its contractor budget, it is also planning to increase spending on full-time employees, MacDonald told the Seattle Times and later confirmed to Reuters, without giving any further details.

The MSN site has been stagnating for the past year, with its US monthly unique visitors stuck at about 116 million, while the more popular Yahoo and AOL portals are growing faster, according to figures from industry research firm Comscore.

Microsoft beefed up its MSN news operation only a year ago in preparation for the launch of Windows 8. The company wanted to grow its ability to generate online content after last summer’s sale of its 50 per cent stake in news website MSNBC.com to longtime partner NBCUniversal, now majority-owned by Comcast Corp.

The shift away from using freelance writers means MSN will likely rely more on external sources such as NBC, Associated Press and Thomson Reuters.

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