The long botched history of Windows Live

By Kip Kniskern | Posted March 4, 2012 42 comments

As longtime readers know, Windows Live and LiveSide go way back.  We started this blog in January 2006,  two months after the Windows Live initiative was announced.  Since then, we’ve been there for beta tests and the transitions and transformations, rebrandings, product launches and product shutdowns that have marked a long but in the end quite disappointing history of a brand that wasn’t to be.  Of course Microsoft continues to push on with its consumer services, and we’re still here to try to make sense of it all.  That won’t change, even if the branding does.

So as we mark what looks like the end of Windows Live as a brand with the launch of Windows 8 and a move to “Microsoft Hotmail”,  “Microsoft SkyDrive” “Microsoft account”, etc., Microsoft doesn’t look like it will even do the honorable thing and put poor Windows Live out of its misery.  Not only will we be referring to “Windows Live” just out of habit, but the name will continue to be baked into products both from Microsoft and 3rd parties, probably for a long time to come. 

Part of the problem is that while Microsoft has apparently given up on the Windows Live brand, it doesn’t appear to be replacing it with a new but similar name, as it did with the Live Search to Bing rebrand.  Instead of “Windows Live ID”, we’ll have Microsoft account (note the lower case “a”), and the new Metro style apps in Windows 8 seem to be planning on getting by with no discernable branding at all.  Just “Photos” or “Mail” or “Messaging”, and that’s enough, apparently.

And don’t even get us started on “Windows Phone”.

So that leaves us with the “generic” branding of Windows 8, legacy “Windows Live” branding lurking in various nooks and crannies, and whatever happens to Windows Live Essentials in Windows 7 and Vista.  In short, a mess.  The kind of mess, coincidentally, that Windows Live was supposed to clean up as various pieces of MSN and Windows were all trying to do the same thing under a variety of banners.

For whatever reason (probably spending too much time looking at metrics and not enough energy selling the product), Windows Live has never been treated well as a brand, even within Microsoft.  Diluted by similar names from other similar but siloed products (Games for Windows … Live, Xbox Live, etc.), applied to whatever new consumer product happened by (Windows Live Barcode, anyone?), and foisted upon products that were far better off without a rebrand (Hotmail, or MSN Messenger, still known to this day as “MSN” in some parts of the world), Windows Live never stood much of a chance.

It didn’t have to be this way.  Microsoft is doing great with the Xbox Live brand.  It makes sense and adds value.  But of course that’s coming out of the Entertainment and Devices Division, where Windows engineers don’t hold all the power and make all the decisions, even poor ones about branding strategy. 

Microsoft needs a “Metro” for branding: a single “brand language” applied to all of its products.  A common “Live” branding strategy across the company could have positioned the company as “the” place to get connected consumer services, instead of as an afterthought to services like Gmail and Dropbox.  But alas, it’s too late now, and we’ll have a whole new set of branding failures to deal with after Microsoft figures out that no brand at all, and another mess of mismatched brands, isn’t going to work either.  Too bad.

Posted March 4th, 2012 at 10:16 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Windows Live
  • http://twitter.com/harlemS Travis Pope

    I disagree on this one. The Windows Live brand never took off because it never made sense. Today’s consumers don’t care about branding. They care about what works. You are right that Live never stood much of a chance but that’s because it never made sense outside of having to download the apps separately which appears to at long last not be the case going forward.

    It would seem to me that the Windows Live branding was necessary in an age when legal issues meant you couldn’t bundle these lifestyle apps with your operating system. In my opinion they should have always been in Windows and now that they are they don’t need the moniker. It’s time to lighten the load, it’s time to simplify the consumer story.

  • http://twitter.com/harlemS Travis Pope

    I disagree on this one. The Windows Live brand never took off because it never made sense. Today’s consumers don’t care about branding. They care about what works. You are right that Live never stood much of a chance but that’s because it never made sense outside of having to download the apps separately which appears to at long last not be the case going forward.

    It would seem to me that the Windows Live branding was necessary in an age when legal issues meant you couldn’t bundle these lifestyle apps with your operating system. In my opinion they should have always been in Windows and now that they are they don’t need the moniker. It’s time to lighten the load, it’s time to simplify the consumer story.

  • technogran

    Totally agree Kip. It’s been a shambles. As you rightly say, a means to consolidate what had become a mess of sites and features that simply duplicated each other. At first, all Live teams were full of gusto and brilliant ideas. Not only that, they used to actually interact with us users (I was often in touch with members of the Live Mail team for example and knew many of them by first name) but as time has gone by, and as the spam etc grew on everyone’s Spaces blogs, they slowly withdrew their usage and ideas for the whole online services.
    It was never really ‘pushed’ or advertised because I don’t think they had made their minds up what the set of services were meant to be. Was it a blogging platform? A social network? I loved it all Kip and made many good friends on Live Spaces (which as far as I was concerned was the hub and heart of all the online part of Windows Live, and also the desktop programs as well) and as soon as they couldn’t be bothered with sorting out the spam etc and decided to get rid of the Spaces side, its demise was on the cards.

    It could have been oh so different Kip. We all used to have some brilliant discussions which mainly used to stem around someone’s blog post, and I actually asked that our comments be allowed to be lengthened so that this aspect be made more of. Instead there was a capitulation to Facebook rather than face a ‘fight’ or rival Facebook, and now the very aspect that I could see evolving from our social network on Spaces has materialised elsewhere in Google Plus.
    That success now enjoyed by Google could have been so achievable by MS had they taken on the challenge and given us users what we wanted and asked for.

    TG (After being contacted by Winston who obviously took offence to my not intended insinuation that I had been using Windows Live before you Kip, I have since removed all references to using any of the Windows Live betas in 2005. My apologies if any offence was given, it was not intended.)
    TG

  • technogran

    Totally agree Kip. It’s been a shambles. As you rightly say, a means to consolidate what had become a mess of sites and features that simply duplicated each other. At first, all Live teams were full of gusto and brilliant ideas. Not only that, they used to actually interact with us users (I was often in touch with members of the Live Mail team for example and knew many of them by first name) but as time has gone by, and as the spam etc grew on everyone’s Spaces blogs, they slowly withdrew their usage and ideas for the whole online services.
    It was never really ‘pushed’ or advertised because I don’t think they had made their minds up what the set of services were meant to be. Was it a blogging platform? A social network? I loved it all Kip and made many good friends on Live Spaces (which as far as I was concerned was the hub and heart of all the online part of Windows Live, and also the desktop programs as well) and as soon as they couldn’t be bothered with sorting out the spam etc and decided to get rid of the Spaces side, its demise was on the cards.

    It could have been oh so different Kip. We all used to have some brilliant discussions which mainly used to stem around someone’s blog post, and I actually asked that our comments be allowed to be lengthened so that this aspect be made more of. Instead there was a capitulation to Facebook rather than face a ‘fight’ or rival Facebook, and now the very aspect that I could see evolving from our social network on Spaces has materialised elsewhere in Google Plus.
    That success now enjoyed by Google could have been so achievable by MS had they taken on the challenge and given us users what we wanted and asked for.

    TG (After being contacted by Winston who obviously took offence to my not intended insinuation that I had been using Windows Live before you Kip, I have since removed all references to using any of the Windows Live betas in 2005. My apologies if any offence was given, it was not intended.)
    TG

  • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

    I wonder if the word Windows Live will be removed from the header of Hotmail and SkyDrive etc. I hope not – it is useful having Hotmail and SkyDrive accessible from each other’s websites.

  • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

    I wonder if the word Windows Live will be removed from the header of Hotmail and SkyDrive etc. I hope not – it is useful having Hotmail and SkyDrive accessible from each other’s websites.

  • quppa

    At least in the case of Windows Live Messenger, I’m sure the brand failed to catch on largely because it’s so much more awkward to say than ‘MSN’. ‘Windows Live’ may have the same number of syllables as ‘MSN’, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue (nor does ‘WLM’).

    I agree that moving to new Windows 8 branding while letting Windows Live linger will create even more of a mess than what we have currently, but what can they do about it? All signs point to Windows 7 sticking around for a long time, even if Windows 8 doesn’t fall flat. I guess any future version of Windows Live Essentials for Vista/7 (assuming there will be one) can be rebranded, but what are they going to call the suite as a whole?

    • cuz84d

       maybe they should just rename it back to msn messenger

  • http://www.guillaumeb.com/ GuillaumeB

    Well, microsoftside.com and microsoftside.net are free to register :)

  • quppa

    At least in the case of Windows Live Messenger, I’m sure the brand failed to catch on largely because it’s so much more awkward to say than ‘MSN’. ‘Windows Live’ may have the same number of syllables as ‘MSN’, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue (nor does ‘WLM’).

    I agree that moving to new Windows 8 branding while letting Windows Live linger will create even more of a mess than what we have currently, but what can they do about it? All signs point to Windows 7 sticking around for a long time, even if Windows 8 doesn’t fall flat. I guess any future version of Windows Live Essentials for Vista/7 (assuming there will be one) can be rebranded, but what are they going to call the suite as a whole?

    • wizkid

       maybe they should just rename it back to msn messenger

  • http://www.guillaumeb.com/ GuillaumeB

    Well, microsoftside.com and microsoftside.net are free to register :)

  • Mario Albertico

    “Microsoft needs a “Metro” for branding: a single ‘brand language’ applied to all of its products.” Could not agree more with this call. Even if not using a dominant brand helps with legal issues, how do people access these services outside of a Windows PC? What’s next, Microsoft Word becomes some random “Notes” Metro app? If it doesn’t work across Microsoft products, it’s not going to work well at all. Google has G-everything, Apple has i-Everything–and it’s not like it’s the only way to do things around here, but we can’t say they’re not doing well for having one dominant branding scheme. But if Microsoft thinks it can get away with “Microsoft account” and “Microsoft Hotmail,” then they’re going down the “Windows Phone 7 Series phones” route again…and that *is* depressing. Too bad indeed.

  • Mario Albertico

    “Microsoft needs a “Metro” for branding: a single ‘brand language’ applied to all of its products.” Could not agree more with this call. Even if not using a dominant brand helps with legal issues, how do people access these services outside of a Windows PC? What’s next, Microsoft Word becomes some random “Notes” Metro app? If it doesn’t work across Microsoft products, it’s not going to work well at all. Google has G-everything, Apple has i-Everything–and it’s not like it’s the only way to do things around here, but we can’t say they’re not doing well for having one dominant branding scheme. But if Microsoft thinks it can get away with “Microsoft account” and “Microsoft Hotmail,” then they’re going down the “Windows Phone 7 Series phones” route again…and that *is* depressing. Too bad indeed.

  • tN0

    I’m wondering that nobody noticed in the Consumer Preview: when you connect your Live ID with your Facebook account, it asked if you want to give “Microsoft Live” access to your Facebook account.

    I’m sure they will merge Xbox Live and Windows Live to Microsoft Live.

    • technogran

      It will take time for them to sift through all references to Windows Live I suppose. I had noticed it yes!

      • tN0

        I bet it is the new branding. What if they may combine all online services under one umbrella called “Live” ?

        When they changed the logo from Windows Live Hotmail to simply Hotmail, I was happy because it made sense. A short brand name for every service/product: Bing, Hotmail, SkyDrive, Skype, Windows, Office, Xbox, Zune. (soon “Live” as well?)

        The products can be combined but also can be used separately (Bing or Hotmail on a Mac obviously).

        But now that they seem to kill the Zune brand, I’m very concerned that we may see an “Xbox Music Marketplace” that you could use in a browser even without owning an Xbox…

  • tN0

    I’m wondering that nobody noticed in the Consumer Preview: when you connect your Live ID with your Facebook account, it asked if you want to give “Microsoft Live” access to your Facebook account.

    I’m sure they will merge Xbox Live and Windows Live to Microsoft Live.

    • technogran

      It will take time for them to sift through all references to Windows Live I suppose. I had noticed it yes!

      • tN0

        I bet it is the new branding. What if they may combine all online services under one umbrella called “Live” ?

        When they changed the logo from Windows Live Hotmail to simply Hotmail, I was happy because it made sense. A short brand name for every service/product: Bing, Hotmail, SkyDrive, Skype, Windows, Office, Xbox, Zune. (soon “Live” as well?)

        The products can be combined but also can be used separately (Bing or Hotmail on a Mac obviously).

        But now that they seem to kill the Zune brand, I’m very concerned that we may see an “Xbox Music Marketplace” that you could use in a browser even without owning an Xbox…

  • tk

    Of course they have a unified branding comming. It’s called Skype. It works perfectly with SkyDrive, which is a big part of W8.
    Windows Live made no sense from the beginning anyway.
    Your site is great, just change the url and you’ll be fine.

  • tk

    Of course they have a unified branding comming. It’s called Skype. It works perfectly with SkyDrive, which is a big part of W8.
    Windows Live made no sense from the beginning anyway.
    Your site is great, just change the url and you’ll be fine.

  • byronm

    I disagree on this one as well.  Music and Movies now is part of xbox live, the remaining apps should just be basic, Photos, Messenger, Mail – the live moniker is just a waste of space.  Windows live is there, its just now matured as a very core product – Microsoft ID, Xbox live.

    I think a lot of *.live happened because of like others may have mentioned, anti-trust issues. Baking in features with the OS while under DoJ scrutiny was risky business for MS, now those chains have been removed and MS can freely innovate on a single brand and move on.

    I for one like it :)

    Plus, MS is focusing more on hotmail, skydrive and other important features realizing that photo management, email and the other live branded apps will do more online then they have offline and what offline experience they need can be VERY easily done with Metro which makes the transition from offline to online almost brain dead easy with the new sync to features. (and new search and new linked microsoft id account)

  • hypernovae

    I disagree on this one as well.  Music and Movies now is part of xbox live, the remaining apps should just be basic, Photos, Messenger, Mail – the live moniker is just a waste of space.  Windows live is there, its just now matured as a very core product – Microsoft ID, Xbox live.

    I think a lot of *.live happened because of like others may have mentioned, anti-trust issues. Baking in features with the OS while under DoJ scrutiny was risky business for MS, now those chains have been removed and MS can freely innovate on a single brand and move on.

    I for one like it :)

    Plus, MS is focusing more on hotmail, skydrive and other important features realizing that photo management, email and the other live branded apps will do more online then they have offline and what offline experience they need can be VERY easily done with Metro which makes the transition from offline to online almost brain dead easy with the new sync to features. (and new search and new linked microsoft id account)

  • chinch987

    the changes are all good. You can’t call “windows live” botched really instead you must consider legal ramifications MS had bundling all the live stuff (as in vista) vs trying to allow options and also build online services. In that regard WL was still very effective.

    A total reboot will be done by the time W8 ships,

    The only thing to get on MS about now is the ugly  non-Metro interface of hotmail/live website. That needs a 100% metro redo ASAP. That is as much a branding no-brainer as it gets and should happen sooner than later as they can redefine graphical apps across all platforms worldwide doing so.

  • chinch987

    the changes are all good. You can’t call “windows live” botched really instead you must consider legal ramifications MS had bundling all the live stuff (as in vista) vs trying to allow options and also build online services. In that regard WL was still very effective.

    A total reboot will be done by the time W8 ships,

    The only thing to get on MS about now is the ugly  non-Metro interface of hotmail/live website. That needs a 100% metro redo ASAP. That is as much a branding no-brainer as it gets and should happen sooner than later as they can redefine graphical apps across all platforms worldwide doing so.

  • http://gregsedwards.wordpress.com Greg Edwards

    Uh oh, Kip’s been drunk blogging again. :)

    I agree that Microsoft’s marketing strategy is a hot mess, but I don’t think the success or failure of Windows Live services hinges on a snazzy name. If anything, Windows Live failed to catch fire because for the majority of its existence, it has been a multi-headed beast with no clear direction. It’s features, while often innovative, have been repeatedly crippled by regulatory restrictions, corporate politics, and/or a development team that isn’t agile enough to adjust to the shifting winds of consumer technology culture.

    Look at SkyDrive: Microsoft was sitting on this gem of a cloud storage solution long before there was a DropBox, Google Drive, or iCloud, but they didn’t promote it effectively. Furthermore, they put up roadblocks at every turn to discourage power users from, you know, actually using it. There has been no straightforward way to access it from your desktop, segregated storage for Mesh, arbitrary limits on file formats and sizes, and no paid options. Now they’re playing catch up and trying to showcase it as a whiz-bang feature of Windows 8. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is like, “Oh look, Microsoft is trying to make their own DropBox wannabe. How cute.”

    Live Essentials is great, but honestly, I’ve grown less excited about them over time. I see WL as a set of online service to be consumed, and LE is just another way to do that. For me, managing my Hotmail in Outlook, on my WP7 device, and via the web UI provides plenty of options. Windows Live Mail is a great little free email client, but certainly I’m not using Hotmail because of it. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I hardly ever blog in the classic sense these days (I suspect just like the majority of technology consumers), so plucky little Live Writer seldom gets any use. Almost nobody I know is ever on the Messenger service, but Messenger is handy as a proxy for Facebook chat. Again, I use the Messaging app on my phone – where Messenger is just another channel – far more often than my desktop client. Mesh isn’t really going to factor into the ecosystem moving forward. Family Safety…I’m sorry, but do you know anyone who actually uses this? On the flip side, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker are fairly awesome tools, but these days I shoot mostly on my phone. That’s a device that is literally connected directly to the cloud. Pulling content down to my PC just to edit it and sync it back to the cloud seems totally backwards. I’d much rather have tools right on my phone to lightly edit, tag, and publish my content to SkyDrive or wherever I choose.

    TG is right that there really is no Windows Live user community anymore, at least not in my little corner of the world. Beyond a bunch of us enthusiasts, I’m not convinced there ever was. I know there’s a larger world where Messenger social may be alive and kicking, but almost no one I know uses it as a primary social experience. Blame it on the death of Spaces or whatever, but that deal is shot. And sorry TG, but Google+ isn’t all that, either. Even with the weight of Google behind it, it’s not enjoying adoption outside of, well, Google. I agree that Google+ is technically superior in a lot of ways, but Facebook and Twitter have the users, and that’s what counts in a social ecosystem. It’s the same problem Windows Live faced. While we’re all wringing our hands over superior features and what went wrong, the rest of the world is busy living their digital social lives through Facebook and Twitter. The smartest thing Microsoft could do, aside from buying their way into the game by acquiring Facebook, is just to figure out a way to make an awesome personal dashboard for your stuff. And that’s exactly what I see them doing.

    In a year, I suspect well be discussing a unified set of Microsoft services in which Hotmail, Skype, and SkyDrive, and Xbox are the four pillars. Windows Live and Zune are gone as brands, but their technology is the underlying fabric throughout the various device OSes. They’ll be available on your desktop, tablet, phone, and TV. Looking ahead even further, we’ll move past this awkward hybrid desktop/tablet phase, new devices will just a have simple touch-first UI, and Metro will be the de facto design metaphor of that new generation of technology. Our focus will have shifted away from what’s available on some legacy desktop and what’s not. Instead we’ll be concerned with relevent apps that let us consume, produce, and stay connected to people, with simple, straightforward, and logical sharing options. And I think Windows Live – or whatever it’s called by then – will still be a big part of that.

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

      Since I quit drinking long before I ever started blogging, I can’t use that excuse ;).  

      I do agree with you on “Windows Live failed to catch fire because for the majority of its existence, it has been a multi-headed beast with no clear direction”, except that I consider “branding” to be quite a bit more than just slapping a name and a logo on something, I should have made that more clear.

      Branding IS defining a clear direction for your product(s),  and cutting through the corporate politics and lack of agility to deliver a cohesive, timely, compelling set of products and services (well it is in my mind, anyway).

      Done well, a brand also defines community.  Obviously the premier example is Apple, where users are passionate about their affinity to the brand.  When Apple released Ping, they could get away with it, partly because they have spent so much energy on protecting and supporting the brand.  Windows Live has been the polar opposite, seemingly snuffing out user enthusiasm instead of encouraging it with poor communications, a lack of direction, and a less than compelling set of services.   

    • Anonymous

      I thought I saw him hitting on the bartender at Joey’s at one of the MVP summit after parties.

  • http://gregsedwards.wordpress.com/ Greg Edwards

    Uh oh, Kip’s been drunk blogging again. :)

    I agree that Microsoft’s marketing strategy is a hot mess, but I don’t think the success or failure of Windows Live services hinges on a snazzy name. If anything, Windows Live failed to catch fire because for the majority of its existence, it has been a multi-headed beast with no clear direction. It’s features, while often innovative, have been repeatedly crippled by regulatory restrictions, corporate politics, and/or a development team that isn’t agile enough to adjust to the shifting winds of consumer technology culture.

    Look at SkyDrive: Microsoft was sitting on this gem of a cloud storage solution long before there was a DropBox, Google Drive, or iCloud, but they didn’t promote it effectively. Furthermore, they put up roadblocks at every turn to discourage power users from, you know, actually using it. There has been no straightforward way to access it from your desktop, segregated storage for Mesh, arbitrary limits on file formats and sizes, and no paid options. Now they’re playing catch up and trying to showcase it as a whiz-bang feature of Windows 8. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is like, “Oh look, Microsoft is trying to make their own DropBox wannabe. How cute.”

    Live Essentials is great, but honestly, I’ve grown less excited about them over time. I see WL as a set of online service to be consumed, and LE is just another way to do that. For me, managing my Hotmail in Outlook, on my WP7 device, and via the web UI provides plenty of options. Windows Live Mail is a great little free email client, but certainly I’m not using Hotmail because of it. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I hardly ever blog in the classic sense these days (I suspect just like the majority of technology consumers), so plucky little Live Writer seldom gets any use. Almost nobody I know is ever on the Messenger service, but Messenger is handy as a proxy for Facebook chat. Again, I use the Messaging app on my phone – where Messenger is just another channel – far more often than my desktop client. Mesh isn’t really going to factor into the ecosystem moving forward. Family Safety…I’m sorry, but do you know anyone who actually uses this? On the flip side, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker are fairly awesome tools, but these days I shoot mostly on my phone. That’s a device that is literally connected directly to the cloud. Pulling content down to my PC just to edit it and sync it back to the cloud seems totally backwards. I’d much rather have tools right on my phone to lightly edit, tag, and publish my content to SkyDrive or wherever I choose.

    TG is right that there really is no Windows Live user community anymore, at least not in my little corner of the world. Beyond a bunch of us enthusiasts, I’m not convinced there ever was. I know there’s a larger world where Messenger social may be alive and kicking, but almost no one I know uses it as a primary social experience. Blame it on the death of Spaces or whatever, but that deal is shot. And sorry TG, but Google+ isn’t all that, either. Even with the weight of Google behind it, it’s not enjoying adoption outside of, well, Google. I agree that Google+ is technically superior in a lot of ways, but Facebook and Twitter have the users, and that’s what counts in a social ecosystem. It’s the same problem Windows Live faced. While we’re all wringing our hands over superior features and what went wrong, the rest of the world is busy living their digital social lives through Facebook and Twitter. The smartest thing Microsoft could do, aside from buying their way into the game by acquiring Facebook, is just to figure out a way to make an awesome personal dashboard for your stuff. And that’s exactly what I see them doing.

    In a year, I suspect we’ll be discussing a unified set of Microsoft services in which Hotmail, Skype, SkyDrive, and Xbox are the four pillars. Windows Live and Zune are gone as brands, but their technology is the underlying fabric throughout the various device OSes. They’ll be available on your desktop, tablet, phone, and TV. Looking ahead even further, we’ll move past this awkward hybrid desktop/tablet phase, new devices will just a have simple touch-first UI, and Metro will be the de facto design metaphor of that new generation of technology. Our focus will have shifted away from what’s available on some legacy desktop and what’s not. Instead we’ll be concerned with relevent apps that let us consume, produce, and stay connected to people, with simple, straightforward, and logical sharing options. And I think Windows Live – or whatever it’s called by then – will still be a big part of that.

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

      Since I quit drinking long before I ever started blogging, I can’t use that excuse ;).  

      I do agree with you on “Windows Live failed to catch fire because for the majority of its existence, it has been a multi-headed beast with no clear direction”, except that I consider “branding” to be quite a bit more than just slapping a name and a logo on something, I should have made that more clear.

      Branding IS defining a clear direction for your product(s),  and cutting through the corporate politics and lack of agility to deliver a cohesive, timely, compelling set of products and services (well it is in my mind, anyway).

      Done well, a brand also defines community.  Obviously the premier example is Apple, where users are passionate about their affinity to the brand.  When Apple released Ping, they could get away with it, partly because they have spent so much energy on protecting and supporting the brand.  Windows Live has been the polar opposite, seemingly snuffing out user enthusiasm instead of encouraging it with poor communications, a lack of direction, and a less than compelling set of services.   

    • Anonymous

      I thought I saw him hitting on the bartender at Joey’s at one of the MVP summit after parties.

  • Avatar Roku

    I think Live like a lot of other MSFT missteps was ahead of its time. Cloud computing is just starting to gain mainstream awareness. Live to MS means online, Live to consumers means happening now. The branding was and possibly still is confusing to the average consumer. If Microsoft had announced Windows Live today after the success of Xbox Live and after they had a complete suite of online services like Office/Skydrive maybe it would have made more sense to consumers. I watched countless “to the cloud!” ads on TV and never understood what Microsoft was promoting. I don’t think they ever used the words “Windows Live” in any of those TV ads.

    I actually think the Live branding is good just poorly executed, timed, explained and promoted. Live makes sense both as meaning “online” and as “happening now” or in “real time”. Imagine for example calling Office web apps, “Office Live,” because it enables real time collaboration in the cloud.

    Another problem is that they use global branding instead of acknowledging the strengths or weaknesses of a brand by region. Hotmail and MSN messenger are dominant brands in many regions of the globe so they shouldn’t have been touched, but in the US they are not popular and seen as old brands from the 90s. So why not call it Bing Mail or Bing messenger in the US where the Bing brand is most popular?

  • Avatar Roku

    I think Live like a lot of other MSFT missteps was ahead of its time. Cloud computing is just starting to gain mainstream awareness. Live to MS means online, Live to consumers means happening now. The branding was and possibly still is confusing to the average consumer. If Microsoft had announced Windows Live today after the success of Xbox Live and after they had a complete suite of online services like Office/Skydrive maybe it would have made more sense to consumers. I watched countless “to the cloud!” ads on TV and never understood what Microsoft was promoting. I don’t think they ever used the words “Windows Live” in any of those TV ads.

    I actually think the Live branding is good just poorly executed, timed, explained and promoted. Live makes sense both as meaning “online” and as “happening now” or in “real time”. Imagine for example calling Office web apps, “Office Live,” because it enables real time collaboration in the cloud.

    Another problem is that they use global branding instead of acknowledging the strengths or weaknesses of a brand by region. Hotmail and MSN messenger are dominant brands in many regions of the globe so they shouldn’t have been touched, but in the US they are not popular and seen as old brands from the 90s. So why not call it Bing Mail or Bing messenger in the US where the Bing brand is most popular?

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    Sadly, I suspect this is going to lead to even more confusion and fragmentation, at least in terms of names and brands.Taking a step back, I think the biggest causes for this “hot mess” stem from the way Microsoft is organized, it’s size, and it’s need (real or perceived) to make changes and adapt.If we hop in the wayback machine, everything that was part of Microsoft’s “online services” was part of MSN (yes, I’m old enough I have an original Microsoft Network beta tester tshirt from 1995!). Even after they acquired Hotmail, they tried to make it “MSN Hotmail” (though that never really took because so many people knew it as Hotmail).Things started to get fragmented with the .NET push and everything became .NET-ified (Passport, Messenger etc). But they never completely killed MSN in favor of .NET and so that created the first wave of major fragmentation.The next wave came with the “Windows Live” push. And again, some portion of services became “Windows Live”, some stayed “.NET”, and others still remained MSN. Confusion is further injected with XBox and Office both adding “Live” to their separate offerings.

    Then you had Bing, and some service closely related to Bing were given or transitioned to that moniker.
    I suspect this will be another wave of fragmentation and a couple of years from now we’ll still be seeing “Bing”, “Live” and “MSN” branded (and if you look hard you may still find “.NET” somewhere).The why for this is that you’re talking about a number of different, independent groups on the backend. So it takes time to even try to rebrand services in an ideal universe. And services (like the MSN homepage) that have been strongly branded as such for a long time fight back and refuse, which either halts the unification process or drags it out.Meanwhile, on a faster timetable, there are groups that realize that they need to go and do new branding (like Bing for instance). And so while people are still fighting whether everything MSN branded will become “Live” branded, someone throws a new brand into the mix, which wholly upsets the discussions, resets everything, and the people who had been demanding older services rebrand to their brand are themselves forced to fight against rebranding led by yet another group.And thus you get the “hot mess” you see. Even today, you’ve got new offerings under older brands you would’ve expected are no longer active: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-17/microsoft-s-msn-aims-to-lure-younger-users-by-touting-hot-trends.html.

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    Sadly, I suspect this is going to lead to even more confusion and fragmentation, at least in terms of names and brands.Taking a step back, I think the biggest causes for this “hot mess” stem from the way Microsoft is organized, it’s size, and it’s need (real or perceived) to make changes and adapt.If we hop in the wayback machine, everything that was part of Microsoft’s “online services” was part of MSN (yes, I’m old enough I have an original Microsoft Network beta tester tshirt from 1995!). Even after they acquired Hotmail, they tried to make it “MSN Hotmail” (though that never really took because so many people knew it as Hotmail).Things started to get fragmented with the .NET push and everything became .NET-ified (Passport, Messenger etc). But they never completely killed MSN in favor of .NET and so that created the first wave of major fragmentation.The next wave came with the “Windows Live” push. And again, some portion of services became “Windows Live”, some stayed “.NET”, and others still remained MSN. Confusion is further injected with XBox and Office both adding “Live” to their separate offerings.

    Then you had Bing, and some service closely related to Bing were given or transitioned to that moniker.
    I suspect this will be another wave of fragmentation and a couple of years from now we’ll still be seeing “Bing”, “Live” and “MSN” branded (and if you look hard you may still find “.NET” somewhere).The why for this is that you’re talking about a number of different, independent groups on the backend. So it takes time to even try to rebrand services in an ideal universe. And services (like the MSN homepage) that have been strongly branded as such for a long time fight back and refuse, which either halts the unification process or drags it out.Meanwhile, on a faster timetable, there are groups that realize that they need to go and do new branding (like Bing for instance). And so while people are still fighting whether everything MSN branded will become “Live” branded, someone throws a new brand into the mix, which wholly upsets the discussions, resets everything, and the people who had been demanding older services rebrand to their brand are themselves forced to fight against rebranding led by yet another group.And thus you get the “hot mess” you see. Even today, you’ve got new offerings under older brands you would’ve expected are no longer active: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-17/microsoft-s-msn-aims-to-lure-younger-users-by-touting-hot-trends.html.

  • Rfm

    Fuck microsft, time for Linux or Apple.

  • Rfm

    Fuck microsft, time for Linux or Apple.

  • Bob Fry

    Microsoft has a very long history of this sort of confusion. I have just one or two programs left that run only on Windows, everything else I can do in the “cloud”, and those remaining I am looking to change. Then fuck MS and their buggy, crappy, changing products.

  • Bob Fry

    Microsoft has a very long history of this sort of confusion. I have just one or two programs left that run only on Windows, everything else I can do in the “cloud”, and those remaining I am looking to change. Then fuck MS and their buggy, crappy, changing products.