Yesterday Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced its pioneer attempt at blog services with the launch of a beta Web log service in Japan. The service will be free and has a nifty feature allowing authors to access and update blogs with their cell phones. Japan, where 90% of households have Internet access and close to 90% of handphones are Internet-enabled, would make an ideal testing ground for Microsoft.

Blogs are pages where users can publish their thoughts online, aided by a host site that automates most of the process. They have long evolved from teenagers whining about their love life to a useful tool for corporate communication. One of the forerunners of this was id Software programmer John Carmack, who used a ".plan" file to update users of his progress when developing the PC game Quake. Soon many developers followed his lead.

Indeed, blogs and their uses have become a significant part of today's business landscape. A recent example would be how Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW) President Jonathan Schwarz created headlines by pondering an IBM acquisition of Novell and hypothesizing in his blog's Aug. 1 entry, "Whoever owns Novell controls the OS on which IBM's future depends." The next day, Novell's price spiked up by 6.3% temporarily as the media and investors pounced on the speculation.

By introducing blog services, Microsoft has entered a new front in its battle with Google, which got a head start by acquiring the Blogger platform last year. The two already have competing Web-based e-mail services and are about to lock horns over search technology. Later this year Microsoft plans to premiere MSN NewsBot and MSN BlogBot, tools for searching news and blogs, respectively (bet you didn't figure that one out).

When it comes to Internet technologies, Microsoft has always been late to the party, but it does make a spectacular entrance eventually. Its competition with Google for eyeballs will definitely be one to keep tabs on. With so much attention being paid to blog services, a penny for someone's thoughts may not be enough anymore.

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Fool contributor Tim Goh does not own any stake in the companies mentioned.