Who Is Windows Live?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted November 25, 2006 23 comments

When Microsoft introduced Windows Live a little more than a year ago, a couple of questions immediately popped up; what is Windows Live, exactly? and why is it different than MSN?  A year later, those questions haven’t been answered.  Yes, there has been progress. A steady stream of new services has emerged, the UI has evolved, existing services are connected and complementary, and performance has improved dramatically.  Windows Live has a compelling story to tell.  Why is no one telling it?

Windows Live isn’t making much of a dent in the marketplace.  It’s a non-topic.  Market research shows Live Search to be losing share if anything, and certainly not gaining.  Oh sure there are marketing gimmicks – Ms. Dewey and her ilk, full page ads, snazzy flash sites. But what Windows Live lacks, specifically, is an identity.  No one can describe it, no one from Microsoft has even tried, and repeated pleas from the community to gain an explanation have fallen on deaf ears.

Robert Scoble was for a time the face of Microsoft, and he took quite an interest in Windows Live.  The impact he had on the community was impressive, but it was apparently unappreciated within Microsoft.  When he left no one bothered to continue the dialogue.  At our dinner at Twist last year, Scoble asked Ken Levy “what is the Windows Live story?”.  He knew it was all about telling the story.  Too bad no one else seems to be getting the message. 

Who is Windows Live?  Who owns this thing?  Who is the voice, the face, of Windows Live?  Oh sure we know some names: Ray Ozzie, Chris Jones, Blake Irving, Steve Sinofsky – and now it looks like Joanne Bradford will be running the advertising.  OK great.  But let’s get serious here.  Windows Live has an image problem; that is – it doesn’t have an image.  In the history of advertising in the US (and I’m sure there are many examples outside the US, too), companies that needed a big turnaround in perception used their top executives as salesmen, and it worked.  Lee Iacocca singlehandedly turned around Chrysler’s image, and then the company.  People could relate.  People may think Ms. Dewey is kind of a cute diversion, but she’s an actress.  Steve Jobs is the face of Apple.  You get a sense of Apple from knowing something about Jobs.  Right now we have absolutely no idea what Ray Ozzie is thinking, because he’s not telling us what he’s thinking.  And what Ray Ozzie should be thinking – every morning – is “How do I define Windows Live?”.

Let’s make no mistake here.  This isn’t about marketing.  Full page ads aren’t going to do it.  Identity is built by communication and by trust.  By transparency.  By open honesty.  We need someone to say “We believe in Windows Live and this is why” and then to make sure everyone is committed to those beliefs. We need someone to say “let me tell you a great story – let me tell you about Windows Live”.  We need a mission statement.  Is there a mission?

And it’s not all about Ray Ozzie, either.  We subscribe to lots of Microsoft blogs, lots of Windows Live blogs.  Anymore, most of them only talk about vacation plans or gingerbread recipes.  It wasn’t always the case.  We learned a lot about Windows Live in the early days of this year by reading passionate bloggers excited about their products.  Most of that passionate blogging seems to have dried up and blown away.  Windows Live bloggers need to do one thing, to have one mantra: “tell the story”.

It’s so funny in our dealings with Microsoft employees and our research into Windows Live plans. Windows Live has inherited all the arrogance of a monopoly with almost none of the market share.  If Windows Live were a start-up with a presence in the community this bad, it probably would have already failed.  The message defining Windows Live gets muddier, MSN seems to be competing with, or disconnected from, Windows Live, and it’s becoming clearer that a grand plan simply doesn’t exist. No one knows what’s going to happen next, and absolutely no one comes out of the ivory tower to grab a hold of this thing and run.

Microsoft was late to the show in search.  Late to the show in mapping.  Late to the show in making improvements in Hotmail, in IE.  But they’ve made great strides.  Virtual Earth 3d rocks.  Live Search has made search relevance nearly a commodity.  Hotmail, or Live Mail, now offers 1gb of storage for 200 million users, an awesome feat.  But hey, look, Microsoft is late to the show in telling the story about what they’re doing.  Until someone takes some initiative within the company to define Windows Live – to tell the story – Windows Live is condemned to being an also-ran.

Posted November 25th, 2006 at 4:26 am
Category: Opinion
Tags: Ray Ozzie, Windows Live
  • tophtucker

    I’m cautiously optimistic that Microsoft is simply still ramping up its marketing efforts. Maybe they want to make it all part of the single big Vista/Office marketing push? I don’t know. But I absolutely agree that they need to fix this problem.

    Windows Live, compared to Google, has comparable features but 1/10th the visibility. “Google Earth” is a household name, while Virtual Earth (which is arguably superior, and at the very least, certainly competitive) languishes in obscurity.

    When I show people Live Local, they literally say, “Oh, is that Google Earth? Yeah, I’ve seen it.”

    People aren’t listening to the marketing executives preaching from on high. They’re listening to their peers. Windows Live just doesn’t have any significant presence down at the people level.

  • barnacle999

    Get a Mac.

  • http://www.did-it.com/blog/ diditcom

    Microsoft needs two things
    1) relevance for both head and tail search queries (still some work to be done)
    2) a search engine domain that can be a verb. Live doesn’t cut it. Sounds like something the ad agency came up with. Better to buy snap.com or find a domain that feels like a noun and verb simultanously.

  • http://brianslittlespace.spaces.live.com brianm76

    I agree with didicom… Live search will never gain ground on Google or any other service and will likely continue to lose ground unless they can come up with a catchy name for it. People say Goolge now no matter what search engine they use.

  • http://khristopherr.spaces.live.com Khristopher

    windows live as a name for a product is where they first went wrong.
    very band name for a product.
    i’m scared that windows live is going to crash and burn.

  • tophtucker

    “Hey, I’m going to go Google that…”
    “Hey, I’m going to go Live that…”

    Nope. Just not as catchy. Then again, Xerox doesn’t have a monopoly on the copier industry, no matter how often people say, “Could you Xerox this for me?” And Kleenex doesn’t have a monopoly. And Band-Aids doesn– okay, so maybe Band-Aids does.


    > barnacle999 said:
    > Get a Mac.

    “Hello, I’m a Mac.”
    “And I’m a PC.”
    “I’m having an identity crisis.”
    “And I’m….. not.”

  • bf1977

    Who is Windows Live? Windows Live is for me the service that leaves me connected with all the people of my list of friends. With the Windows Live Messenger I can be in direct contact with my friends 24 hours of the day. With the Windows Live Spaces I can say what I think and place photos and be in contacts with my friends in its Windows Live Spaces. Taking off the other services of the Windows Live as of research and the others. The service or the platform Windows Live was born we to be in contact and always connected with our friends, familiar and friends of work. Windows Live was born to unify services that were separate and without interaction, today when opens my Windows Live Mail knows that a contact brought up to date its data or that something in its Windows Live Spaces postou. I find that still it very lacks to make, but as fan of the Microsoft and its products I know that soon Windows Live will be a platform of products that will go to interact total between itself of an incomparable form only e. I wait that soon, when I to say for they alguem, here it moves for the Windows Live, because… I have a better definition to give of what same mine.

  • mrmckeb

    You realise that Live will be pushed heavily along with Vista… currently it’s like a giant test network.

  • http://sxmangel.spaces.live.com/ sxmangel

    I’m a huge fan of Windows Live, the products are pretty great. Almost everything the Live teams have produced is good. For once I wish I didn’t agree with Kip; he makes a great point. While people are using the Live products they don’t know how the products came to be.
    Serious Live fans are lobbying and advertising Live products more than the Execs are and that’s kinda sad. You’d think they would be preaching of a Live world but it’s quite the opposite. If they have any intention of making a profit off the things they’re creating, someone has to speak up and fast.

    It would suck to see something so great die down because of things as simple as bad advertising and representation….or lack there of.

  • http://stevepatrizi.spaces.live.com Steve Patrizi

    By way of introduction, I look after the San Francisco sales office for Microsoft Digital Adverting Solutions and spend a lot of time discussing this very topic with our advertising partners. I recently posted an entry on my Live Space that might help: http://stevepatrizi.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!110CE8ABAA9802AD!589.entry

    p.s. I’m a long-time lurker, first time poster – LiveSide is a daily read, keep up the great work.

  • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern

    Thanks Steve, and thanks to everyone for the great comments. Keep em coming!

  • rb1385

    Interesting read that Steve posted and a good explination of the difference between Windows Live and MSN but the problem is much deeper it seems to me.   People just don’t know about Windows Live and the ones who do recognize that the major services are just udated versions of MSN services that have been rebranded.  
    The search engine is better but it is lost, almost like a split personality, and not being pushed by the company to create an identity.  
    One Care is the one truely new program/service that has come out of this whole reorganization.  
    There is no killer program to push to gain an identity for Windows Live.  The nimble and quick reaction that use to come from MSN doesn’t exist at Windows Live.  There seems to have been a focus on how many services can we push out in place of dynamic services that are “must have” for consumers.
    Everyone was wanting the updated /rebranded Spaces, Messenger, and Hotmail…. but there has not been any advertising or pushing these services to create an identity for Windows Live.
    I hope that it isn’t to late to get something working.  Vista’s launch isn’t going to be the push Windows Live needs, that should have happened months ago.

  • hbpencil

    Is it just me or is Windows Live Mail (m8) is incompatible with Firefox 2?

  • bf1977

    He is not just heeheh
    But because it does not use the IE7?
    He is optimum that it is having in browser.

  • bf1977

    Windows Live with the Seen Windows!
    Integration of first line!
    It will only go to be a species of marriage Apple style and @mac.com heheh
    that with a difference, the integration goes here to be bigger and complete.

  • bf1977

    Seen = Vista

  • hbpencil

    wtf are you smoking?

  • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern

    more like what is Babelfish smoking, lol.

  • bf1977

    You using the translator of the Google! I am not obliged namely English.

  • Chris

    lol. comments are good, even if they are via a translator.

  • bf1977

    Chris I am been thankful!
    I taste to come here and dispatches by post!
    But unhappyly use a translator to read and later use to make my commentary!
    But as taste very of this site I go to thus continue using a translator to read in Portuguese (my language) and to write in English the language of the site.

  • tdz

    Windows Live … Live.com …. providing services for you to *LIVE* on the NET :) my 2 cents.

  • CruchyBits

    I’m finding that Live Search and IE7 are blocking a lot of useful URL’s, including my own.

    Can anyone come up with a good reason to put up with this sort of DENIAL OF SERVICE? I wonder if they’ll delete this post, as well.

    I’m going to look very seriously at moving to opensource Linux for all of my websurfing needs.