Its at this time of year that people post their yearly recaps and scorecards, whilst looking ahead to the following year. While I’ve seen a generic Microsoft 2007 scorecard and a reminder of the branding mess that Microsoft created for itself in 2006, I haven’t seen much else relating to Microsoft’s online services (tip us if you have). With that in mind, here goes.

Search + Mobile

Search was the first point picked for our look ahead in 2007, and in terms of numbers, not a lot has changed in a year. Sure we’ve seem some ups and downs, however there is still a long way to go here. The September update has been a step in the right direction and all being well the next update should be due out in a few months time. As Kip said this time last year, Live Search needs to compel users to switch, so far it doesn’t.

There is good news on the mobile front though. Live Search for Mobile has been going from strength to strength during 2007 and the various mobile clients (Windows Mobile/Nokia) have also been getting positive reviews. Microsoft needs to extend itself in these areas, both organically and through the various acquisitions made towards the end of 2007. After all, if you can’t win search on the PC, the mobile market is still a very attractive option.

Wave 2

September 2007 saw the launch of Windows Live Wave 2, consisting of the core suite of desktop applications as well as some complementary sevices online. I just can’t seem to swallow the kool-aid on this one though, perhaps because it took so long to get some of the products out of the door or perhaps because I’m of the opinion that more could have been achieved.

On the plus side we’ve now got SkyDrive, Events and Calendar in beta, though all three of these services bring with them their own questions about future direction. Social networking is definitely an area that Wave 2 has underdelivered on, and although Windows Live Groups is lined up in the wings, Microsoft needs to do much more to stay with the pace.

Overall Wave 2 has been a substantial and fairly complete update, so well done overall for this.

New products – Rock on Silverlight

Without a doubt the award for best product of the year has to go to Silverlight. Catchy name, great work from the development teams, and good corporate strategy by Microsoft in getting Silverlight onto some major websites. If you haven’t seen the full-screen slideshow on www.nba.com you should definitely check it out. Its difficult to be hard on Microsoft when they come out with a technology that allows web developers to do this kind of stuff.

Branding + Market Perception

Not much to report on this one. Branding hasn’t changed much during the year, and neither really has market perception. In fact when you consider the new products that have really taken off, Silverlight and to an extent Popfly, none of them show a hint of Windows Live branding anywhere near them. Perhaps the lesson has been learnt now, bottom line is don’t brand something in Windows Live unless you really really have to.

Vista Integration

Windows Vista saw its consumer launch in January 2007, with Windows Live supposedly extending the operating system into the cloud. Though there are the new “replacement” applications like Windows Live Mail and Photo Gallery, performance in this area is almost as bad as that of the Ultimate Extras team. Sidebar gadgets? Desktop access to cloud storage? Keep dreaming. This Software+Services concept is something Microsoft appears to still be getting to grips with, so perhaps more realistically this is something we should expect more with Windows 7. That said, there is hope on the Horizon, see below.

Developers Developers Developers 

There’s been a mixed year for the 3rd party Windows Live developers, who apart from Silverlight, have had little else to celebrate. Sure we’ve had the new Live ID authentication and some great demo sites available as part of the Windows Live Quickapps, however there still seems to be something missing. There is a lot planned for Mix08 though, so if you’ve been considering attending, definitely get in and buy your ticket now. Its pretty good for the free swag too ;)

Looking forward

So this is the area where we get ourselves into trouble, and in light of ThinkGeek (RIP) we’ll mind our p’s and q’s. While we could talk about the Wave 3 planning, whispers of search rebrands, or the new WL Movie Maker product from the DMX group, our pick for the year to come has got to be Horizon. This is perhaps the most well known of Ray Ozzie’s concept development projects, having also gone by the name Windows Live Core. While its still a way off seeing public light, we’ve heard its almost fit enough for internal dogfood. Time to reacquiant yourself with with your local Softie…