Microsoft prepared plans to create a U.S. e-commerce marketplace to take on both Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), but ultimately backed off the idea, which was code-named Project Brazil, according to a report in Thursday's (June 20) Wall Street Journal.
It's not clear if this played a factor in the decision, but Japan-based multinational e-tailer Rakuten is preparing to make a major U.S. push later this year and it also is focused on undermining both Amazon and eBay.
Microsoft "held discussions with retailers and technology companies about a marketplace, proposing to equip it with an array of merchants, as well as a unified shopping cart and broad shipping options," the paper reported.
Among the most intriguing details of this deal-that-never-happened was that Microsoft "was considering subsidizing the price of goods on its e-commerce service using a portion of advertising dollars merchants spent on Microsoft's Bing Web-search engine or elsewhere," the story said.
(It is tempting to speculate that the reason Microsoft dubbed it Project Brazil is that it knew the idea was nuts.)
An anonymous Microsoft spokesperson (please don't get me started on official company spokespeople, uttering official and approved utterances, making a mockery of journalism by insisting that they speak only on background) confirmed the existence of Brazil, but only long enough to say that it no longer is in existence.
"Project Brazil was an incubation to enable a more direct commerce model between customers and brands and merchants," said the unnamed Microsoft spokesperson. "We remain committed to finding new and differentiated ways to enable a richer, more task oriented approach to e-commerce and online advertising."
Microsoft hoped to offer the marketplace as part of its Windows software for computers, and eventually on other related products, including Xbox videogame consoles and smartphones and tablets powered by Windows, said the people who had been briefed by the company on the plans, according to the report.
- See this Wall Street Journal story