Microsoft Corp. unveiled plans to create a new suite of Internet services under the moniker "Hailstorm", including a large database to permit information sharing between PC users.
Hailstorm will link Microsoft software and services with those of other companies, enabling message forwarding between PCs and cellular phones. It could help Microsoft compete more effectively against online rivals such as AOL Time Warner in instant-messaging and other online services. Microsoft intends to charge consumers monthly fees for some services, such as services that might send e-mail notifications about upcoming events or offer tickets online. The software giant has developed demonstration applications with American Express, online auctioneer eBay and its own Expedia service.
Some antitrust enforcers and industry groups are reportedly saying HailStorm raises issues similar to those from the successful lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and 19 states in 1998, now pending before an appeals court in Washington, D.C. But Microsoft officials is apparently anticipating those objections by assuring that HailStorm services and software will operate on other systems, including Apple Computer's Macintosh software and hand-held device maker Palm Inc.