Old alliances reforming today as Microsoft and former-sister company Expedia join forces to create a travel search and planning plug-in for the Internet Explorer toolbar.
The drop-down system, available once users download the patch for Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), allows users to browse hotel and last-minute package deals, a weather search system, and currency converter.
Another feature is a reasonably cute trip countdown widget for a user's desktop, but the meaty part of the tie-in is clearly the most useful element of the browser bar - the search function.
When a user looks for a particular destination or product, every result from the Expedia system is displayed in a dropdown menu, similar to existing "Site Suggestion" functions on IE8 and other browsers.
"These features include Accelerators which are predefined Favourites to help users navigate to the most relevant websites in one click, as well as customised Webslices that bring external website content direct into the Expedia page without needing to open new tabs and search."
The system is being trialled in the UK initially, but if successful Expedia plans on rolling out to other markets across the network including the US.
UK director of online partner marketing Alex Gisbert says:
"At the moment that we've launched this as a Expedia-branded tool. The next question for us is whether other brands such as TripAdvisor and Hotels.com can be utilised as well."
Microsoft created Expedia as one of its first forays into web ecommerce in 1996 by Rich Barton. It was later sold by Microsoft to the IAC web giant before finally being spun off under the Expedia Inc umbrella (and later listed on the public markets in the US).
NB: Unfortunately, we're having a few problems installing the browser plug-in, so cannot roadtest it as yet. :(