International versions of Microsoft's forthcoming operating system Windows XP will likely be shipped with fewer Microsoft-developed Smart Tags than the US version. Many of the US tags are useless to foreign users, according to Microsoft.
The Smart Tags feature in Office XP, launched in late May, is designed to scan users' documents and add -- among other things -- links to relevant information on the Web. Windows XP and the upcoming version of Web browser Internet Explorer also will support the feature, which in the case of Explorer will result in Smart Tags appearing on Web pages.
The feature is controversial; critics have said Microsoft could bundle a bunch of Smart Tags with its software to promote its online properties. Local Microsoft subsidiaries, however, are responsible for Smart Tags in their own areas, and many US-specific tags were removed from Office XP.
Microsoft's local subsidiaries partnered with third parties to develop localized Smart Tags for Office XP, and will do the same for Windows XP.
Smart Tags appear as a thin underline under text or numbers; for example, if Smart Tags for company stocks is activated, the Smart Tags feature will underline and link ticker symbols on a Web page to other relevant information on the Web -- for instance, stock information on MSN MoneyCentral.
Microsoft denies that it sees Smart Tags as a tool to draw visitors to its Web sites.
"Microsoft isn't planning to make a lot of money on the Smart Tags or to get a lot of traffic to our Web sites. Smart Tags were designed purely to improve ease of use and to add functionality. We want to be a delivery platform for Smart Tags developed by others," said Robert Fransen, a spokesman for Microsoft in the Netherlands.
Microsoft will deliver some Smart Tags with Windows XP and they also will be activated by default in Internet Explorer, Fransen said.
"Those tags will be an example of the functionality. Third parties will develop many more Smart Tags than Microsoft can ever make," he said, adding that developing Smart Tags is free and easy to do with a software developers kit that is available for download from Microsoft's Web site for developers.
Microsoft does realize that Smart Tags changes the way Web pages are presented, but officials say Web site managers can prevent the feature from being used on their sites, "by adding one line of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) to their site," said Fransen.