Why Sinofsky’s head-in-sand approach doesn’t work for Windows Live

What happens when you take the man in charge of the world’s most-used operating system and ask him to talk about the future? Not a lot when that man is Steven Sinofsky.

Ina Fried from Cnet today posted an interview she did with Sinofsky, asking him about Windows 7 and Microsoft’s plans for the future. Full credit goes to Ina for mentioning the Translucency vs Transparency memo that Mary-Jo Foley published in her book. Josh over at Windows-Connected has the translation out of corporate-speak, which in summary equates to:

“i iz keeping it on lockdown, kthxbai.”

The reason for our mentioning this over here in the online services land is that Sinofsky is also the chief of Windows Live. Oh dear. While we can see some rational behind his corporate disclosure policy for Windows, unfortunately we stand on the total other side of the fence when it comes to the Internet.

  • Microsoft isn’t winning in web services. Sure stay quiet when you’re The Man, but when your social networking products are barely a footnote and search share is going nowhere, you should probably start telling users how you’re going to deliver.
  • Microsoft isn’t making money online. Unlike Google, the Online Services Business Unit has been loss-making ever since Microsoft announced Windows Live. Sure we’ve mentioned that this is due to high-levels of investment, but what about the bloated staff numbers, continued recruitment and the total lack of monetisation plans. Softies ask yourself how many Windows Live services would get VC funding. Microsoft shareholders have a right to know how its leaders plan to turn this ship around, and frankly the silence is deafening.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect about all this is a comment made at the recent MVP Summit, where Chris Jones (Sinofsky’s under-study in Windows Live) apparently said that Microsoft could learn from Apple. From what we heard, his logic was that part of the iPhone’s success was due to there being no leaks, meaning that the PR was controlled and carefully managed. I guess Chris doesn’t read Techmeme then.

To help spell this out:

1. Develop products that are innovative, make money and people actually want

2. Don’t try to control the PR, viral marketing has taken off for a reason

3. Ship on time!

In recent months we’ve also heard that there is a pr team ready to combat any Windows Live Wave 3 leaks, which makes me wonder why Microsoft doesn’t put them to better use and actually start working with the community and putting out positive pr. The Community Clubhouse on Spaces is a start, and any Windows Live uber-users who blog on Spaces should go and fill out this survey to take part (currently private for the time being).

This movie quote is perhaps the most fitting conclusion I could find [NSFW].