Last Thursday evening I attended a Windows Live Session hosted by Microsoft's Phil Holden.
Phil is Director of MSN Global Business and Product Management at MSN. He has been at Microsoft for nearly 14 years working originally with IBM as a hardware engineer.
The meet consisted of enthusiasts from well known sites like mess.be, bink.nu and various other messenger sites. The main facts from the meeting are summarised below but for a full overview of what was learnt and talked about then read on!
- Core investments for Microsoft - Media Center, Smartphones and VoIP
- Windows Live Mail update within the month
- Windows Live to launch in April
- Windows Live Expo (fremont) will compete with eBay and Loot
- Full Firefox support across all Windows Live applications
Updated: Added several photos of Fremont being demoed to attendees.
Photo: Fremont Up Close
Photo: Fremont Item
Photo: Phil Demo's Fremont
Photo: Phil Demo's Fremont #2
Phil started off proceedings talking about the effects of
broadband, constant connections and consumers ever demanding communications.
Phil admitted that over the past year Microsoft have been working in order to
reach the level that their competition is at (Google).
The ideas behind Windows Live are to integrate the core teams
of Messenger, Hotmail and Search in order to form separate products that hold
the same UI and consistency.
Phil unveiled the new Live Contacts service. Live contacts
allows users to choose to publish information to the world or keep it private
amongst trusted individuals. Work information can be posted, personal
information can be posted. The key part of Live Contacts is the fact it's
available anywhere for anyone to view to ensure they always have the correct information
about you. Live Contacts is available now as will be integrated into Messenger Contact
Phil moved on to explain what Microsoft is planning with Windows
Live in the future. There was a heavy play on Windows
but still no strong confirmation on whether Messenger Live will work within Media Center.
I was surprised that the Xbox 360 wasn't mentioned for plans with any messenger
client or integration.
Smartphones and Pocket PCs were mentioned briefly as a
"core" concern for Microsoft in the future. When I questioned Phil
afterwards he was unsure whether an updated messenger client would be available
for Smartphones and Pocket PCs. Considering the technology hasn't been overhauled
since 2002 I'd expect an update this year.
Phil demo'd start-int.com which will replace start.com. The
interface looked more updated and consistent with the Live UI. What's
interesting is that Microsoft is planning to market Live.com as the main
portal. Personally I feel that Microsoft has wasted a huge amount of money
marketing search.msn.com as it's search engine when they could have played with
start.com, something easier for customers to remember.
Windows Live Mail will receive a major update in the next
month or so to provide more speed and better performance.
Windows Live Expo (fremont) was demo'd for the first time
(without NDA). The beta will be delivered to local companies in Seattle within the next
few weeks and is heading for broad beta in the Summer. Based on Microsoft's
internal "micronews" you can sell, buy and trade without your mail
domain or community. Clearly looking to appeal not just to consumers but the
enterprise, expo might just give eBay a run for its money. Expo will be free
for listings. At the moment there is no auction like listings and users can
only buy, sell or trade for a fixed price. Expo is RSS enabled and is built,
like Windows Live Mail, on AJAX
technologies. When questioned Phil wasn't sure whether Expo would support
PayPal specifically but said Microsoft was not looking to build their own
payment system for Expo.
Phil finally demo'd the new Philips VoIP Messenger phone. Continuing
the trend and reports in the media, Microsoft is pushing the "press the
green button" across devices. The Philips device has a green Messenger
button to get straight to your list or buddies. Phil mentioned that the phone
will be in store for the launch of Windows Live and should be sub $100. VoIP is
clearly something that Microsoft is trying to keep on their radar for the
After Phil's demonstrations I managed to speak to him for
half an hour and fire off some questions. I asked Phil about the confusion
between Windows Live Messenger and Windows Messenger, Phil believes the company
is working towards remedying this and has been delayed in doing so because of
certain countries laws about integrating the Messenger products.
I asked Phil about the UI of Live and why this is inconsistent
to what we're seeing with Vista, he replied
with "I wouldn't take what you see today as the final UI. We are still
working on things and there's stuff that could change". When questioned
about the Messenger client Phil was concerned with the sign-in time for
Messenger and connection rates, he admitted Microsoft are working hard on
getting the sign-in time down and 100% connection rates through proxies and work
firewalls. Microsoft is currently not happy with where they are at with
Phil was fairly confident that MSN Remote Record will hit
soon under the Live branding.
Overall from the session it's clear that Microsoft haven't
finalised exactly what they're aim is with Windows Live. With such a broad
range of MSN products available today it seems that MSN and Windows Live will
be separate thus adding further confusion to the consumer who has always known
and loved MSN. Whether or not the live idea will entice the masses remains to
be seen, however, what's clear is that those who know about it are happy and if
Microsoft can market Live well enough then it could be a breakthrough against
the mighty Google.