Recently Microsoft silently launched MSN Sideguide, a new sidebar that “enhances your browsing experience with useful and relevant information as you surf”. The sidebar can be docked at either side of the screen (multi-monitor users are out of luck – it is always on primary screen – at least for now) and displays content of the MSN channels, the latest headlines from MSN/MSNBC, and enables easy access to Live Search.
Codenamed Shadow, the main purpose of MSN Sideguide is to fund the free wifi networks that Microsoft is currently testing in Oakland and Portland with its ISP partner, MetroFi – the wifi connection will be dropped if Sideguide is not running. MSN Sideguide is an “always on top sidebar” taking away space of your desktop but it offers the option that it only does so when browsing. If you enable this option Word, etc will still use the full desktop. In this mode MSN Sideguide recognizes IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari as browsing apps and shows up – Netscape will still use the full desktop space.
Microsoft only recently announced its partnership with Jiwire to monetize free wifi, and Shadow seems to be another step on this journey.