As if it weren't easy enough for consumers to find new Windows-compatible software, hardware, and services, Microsoft is now publicly testing its upcoming Windows Marketplace, a Web community designed to place Windows users in direct contact with sellers. The site doesn't sell any goods directly, but rather lets you easily find goods from reputable sellers.
Microsoft expects that many potential customers will use Windows Marketplace as a central point for researching new product purchases. The site lets you search, browse, and compare products, and it provides customer-generated reviews that will help you choose the best solutions. The site is divided into sections for software, hardware, and community. The latter section provides links to Internet-based communities such as newsletters, Web sites, and discussion groups.
Communities center around certain markets. A Software Developer Resource Center, aimed at programmers, provides links to resources from Microsoft and independent communities. Consumers can access a Home User Resource Center that provides similar resources for home users and technology enthusiasts.
Windows Marketplace preview is available online now.
Although Microsoft doesn't require its ubiquitous .NET Passport technology to access the Windows Marketplace Web site, it does require Passport for any purchases that are made from a Windows Marketplace seller's Web site. Although this could temper excitement for the Web community, a separate restriction might prove even more limiting: Currently, Windows Marketplace is available to users in only the United States. Microsoft recommends that users in other countries, such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom, access their localized versions of the Windows Catalog, a predecessor to Windows Marketplace.