Windows Live - I think I get it...

Scott Hanselman's response to Windows Live I just don't get it. That was my response today as I read about 50 different announcements on it. But after reading Dare's explanation, it starts to make a bit more sense:

From a practical perspective, when I think about Windows Live I think about three things:

  1. User-centric web applications with rich user interfaces: You can expect more applications with rich, dynamic, user interfaces such as has been shown in the Mail beta and on For the geeks out there this means that you'll be seeing a lot more AJAX applications coming out of us and a focus on software that puts the user in control of their online experience.

  2. Smart desktop applications that improve the Windows user experience:  The MSN division has slowly become Microsoft's consumer software division. From desktop search to instant messaging, a number of key applications that were once thought of as bits that ship with the operating system are now being shipped on a more frequent basis by MSN. With Windows Live, this reality is being acknowledged and embraced. Expect to see more beneficial integration between consumer applications coming from Microsoft and our web properties such as the integration between MSN Messenger & MSN Spaces.

  3. The Web as a platform: was just the beginning, expect a lot more. Coincidentally I just finished giving a presentation to a few hundred of my co-workers from across the company on MSN Windows Live services as a Web platform. This is definitely an area I will be spending a lot of my time on in the following months.

[via 25hoursaday - Windows Live ]

So, here's the point as I see it:

First of all, it's a necessary game of catchup. Google's building a platform around their personalized homepage, and as long as MS has one that's good enough but the default homepage then people will stick with it. They need something that's a viable start page, since we all live in our browsers now days.

Secondly, the web platform is important to allow frequent software releases without consumer agravation. MS has has been losing face lately because Google and all the cool new websites can turn out "beta sites" with new features all the time, whereas it takes MS years to release an operating system. That's because releasing an operating system is hard, and releasing websites is braindead simple. A few reasons:

  • no backward compatibility / upgrade issues
  • no manufacturing dependencies
  • no need for published ship dates (and no shame if you miss them)
  • it's possible to rollback if everything goes to hell
  • much more defined platform - sure, you need to support a few different browsers on a few different platforms, but it's nothing like the huge mess of supporting a bajillion ancient drivers and conflicting software systems
  • you can turn around bug fixes on a dime
  • maybe most important - customers like web updates and dislike installing software updates

So this gives MS great flexibility and agility when it needs it while they can keep their longrange OS initiatives on the several year schedule that OS's realistically take to develop. With a web platform, MS can make splashy headlines and "ship" web code once a month just like everyone else.

The point is that MS has officially realized that the web as a platform isn't going anywhere, and that "Smart Client Revolution" basket isn't the best place for all the eggs. And a central Microsoft web platform makes a lot of sense, for precisely the reasons Scott didn't get it - Microsoft's web presence has been totally unfocused, while Google's has been simple and focused.

And is MS's version of Which is kind of reason three that I see - it's great to be able to sort of release a beta-ish cool site that's not really supported but good enough. MS can't do that with software, but website releases, especially if you call them beta, can be a lot more squishy.


1 Comment

  • With is the MS version of, then what about the other one?

    Microsoft have always had a good set of docs via MSDN for extending Windows, Office etc..., they just never did the same for their web properties, until now. I guess the penny finally dropped.

    Should be interesting to see what Google, MS and Yahoo as well as all of the smaller players with cool stuff come up with for the end users as well as for developers.

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