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Microsoft Adds Web Invitation Tool

Microsoft Corp. has added a digital party-invitation service to its suite of Windows Live Web services.

Events, as the new tool is called, works much like IAC/InterActiveCorp.'s Evite does.

Users choose one of dozens of predesigned templates -- birthday, cocktail party, Chinese New Year, even Yom Kippur breakfast. They fill in the time and place of their event, add a map, type in invitees' e-mail addresses and hit send. The person planning the party must have a Windows Live ID, such as a Hotmail e-mail address, but guests don't need one to respond to the invitation.

The event page keeps track of who's attending and who's not and offers a discussion board tool for uploading photos and linking the event to personal calendars like Outlook's or Apple Inc.'s iCal. The service is closely tied to Microsoft's other Web tools. Users can click links to blog about the event on the Spaces social network site and get driving directions from Live Search.

In a small nod to a big social networking competitor, Microsoft lets users post links to photos on their Facebook profiles.

Microsoft "may not be the best in any one area," said Rob Enderle, analyst at the Enderle Group. Its strategy is to offer the best overall bundle of services.

"They see Facebook dabbling with invites, they look at what the leading invite product is like -- Evite -- and say, let's put something like Evite in ours; that makes us stronger," Enderle said.

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