Exclusive: Interview with Windows Live Directors

Today I sat down with Ryan Gavin and Dharmesh Mehta, Directors of Windows Live Consumer Product Management. Besides sitting in a private room completely dumbfounded at the fact that I was doing my first in person interview with a chief Microsoft employee, we discussed Windows Live in-and-out.

As we started the interview, I thought that I would hear the normal "We can't discuss that". However, these gentlemen were very open and told me that I had the spotlight in the meeting to just go ahead and start asking away or they could show me some stuff in Wave 3. Seeing as though I've followed Windows Live since its debut in 2005, I figured that I would go ahead with some questions.

The following QnA is paraphrased responses from Ryan and Dharmesh.

Q: So, what about Kumo?
A: As you know, there are many rumors currently circulating. Live Search has its own team, so can't go into anything specific. However, follow the rumors.

Q. Where is Windows Live heading in the future?
A. With the release of Wave 3, we wanted to interconnect our products and services. Following Microsoft's goal of "seamless computing", we added features such as seeing your contacts personal message updates on your Windows Live homepage. With that in mind, we plan on further centralizing the users experience through our products and services.

Q: So, Steve announced at the keynote the huge deal with Facebook, are we going to see any new integration between the two instant messaging services?
A: As you know, we currently have interoperability with Yahoo! Users. We have been working hard on having the average users services all centralized. So, it is a possibility and we are working on it.

Q: How many users currently use Windows Live products and services?
A: We actually just reached an all-time high of 460 million.

Q: During the keynote session with Steve Ballmer, they demoed a new version of Windows Live Hotmail. For those of us with a sharp eye, there was a POP access button in the navigation bar. When are we going to see that come to the market?
A: Wow, you have a sharp eye! Yes, we are working on adding POP access to Windows Live Hotmail accounts. As you know, we update Hotmail very frequently, and we hope to have it out in the next few months.

Q: Going back to when Windows Live was first released back in 2005, former Microsoft employee Leah Pearlman posted on the MessengerSays blog hinting at the fact that tabbed chatting would be coming into the scene soon. What happened?
A: That is a feature that we are still working on. As you know, we do hundreds of surveys and questionnaires on a monthly basis. We strive to give users the best possible client.

At that point, I waited for the response to end and I pointed out that from what I can tell, users have always wanted that feature for as long as I can remember. Ryan then proceeded to show me some of the jump lists features that Windows 7 has, and how users can use those to navigate through their many conversations. With that in mind, I don't believe that we are going to see that feature anytime soon. So we went back to the QnA.

Q: So, when are we going to see Wave 4?
A: We're always going through beta cycles, and now that we've officially launched Wave 3 to the global market, we've already started planning the next wave. No specific date as of yet, but it will be within the next few months.

Q: Why was Movie Maker not taken out of beta during the final release of Wave 3?
A: Good question. We felt as if we did a very good job updating Windows Movie Maker to Windows Live Movie Maker, but as you know it's one of the newest Windows Live applications. There is a lot more in store for the application, and there were some things that needed to be worked on. So, we left it in beta. There has been a tremendous about of feedback during the beta phase, and we are still working on implementing some of that.

So, that was the gist of the interview. Overall I believe that Windows Live is heading in the right direction. Of course there were questions that couldn't be answered for obvious reasons, such as any specific features coming up in the next wave of Windows Live. Ryan and Dharmesh did take the time to say that they appreciate all of the beta testers feedback and the time they took to beta test the products and services. I believe with the new agreement between Dell and Microsoft, we will be seeing a beta cycle starting very soon.

Wave 4 could possibly be one of the biggest updates that Windows Live has seen. With all of the new features coming in Windows 7, there is a lot more interconnectivity to be made. I believe that the Windows Live team will introduce more content for the jumplist in Windows 7. I suspect that the Live Search rebrand, also codenamed Kumo, should be hitting beta phase in the next month or two.

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