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Force-feeding MS Passport works – study

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Netizens don't much care for the Microsoft Passport gimmick but they do nevertheless put up with it, a recent Gartner survey indicates.

"Microsoft has managed to double its number of registered Passport users in just six months, from 7 million who were registered in August 2001 to 14 million who were registered as of February 2002," the pollsters tell us.

But that doesn't mean customers like it, or seek it, or even approve of it. "Most consumers are signing up because they have to and not because of a strong interest in the convenience features Passport offers," Gartner researcher Avivah Litan says.

MS will obviously benefit financially from high Passport subscription numbers as it attempts to sell its .NET services. The more people it can corral, or appear to corral, the more more valuable the consumer base it promises to deliver will appear.

"This, in turn, earns Microsoft higher advertising revenue, more lucrative affiliate deals, and potential customer referral transaction fees in the future," Litan notes.

The subtle coercion involved doesn't seem to be turning consumers off. Many may sense that they're being patronized and coopted into something that benefits MS a good deal more than it does them; but they want their Hotmail and MSN Messenger and access to the developer sites, and Passport is the price of entry.

As for whether the Passport database offers much of real value to MS' .NET partners, we may well wonder. Surely it contains a good deal of fictitious registration data. Significantly, Gartner found that only twelve per cent of respondents said they trust MS to handle on-line financial services.

So this makes us wonder if more than a small minority of Passport holders actually take it seriously. Obviously, to persuade companies to invest in its .NET services, MS is going to have to convince them that Passport users do take it seriously, and do trust Redmond with their data. The numbers alone tell us only that Passport isn't offensive enough to drive people away.

A company impressed with Passport's growth in popularity needs to question whether that reflects consumer trust and acceptance, or mere capitulation. Surely, the value of .NET to companies other than MS can only be determined on that basis. ®

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