Windows Live Wave 2 – How it looks so far

With the Windows Live Wave 2 rollout expected this autumn/fall, Kevin Johnson describes it as “the must-have free upgrade to the Windows experience.” Is Kevin being optimistic or is there enough available already to warrant this description?

The launch of the updated desktop applications (Messenger, Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery) as part of a core Windows Live suite will be a key part of this strategy, promoting the full offerings of Windows Live to those users who may have, up to now, limited themselves to the products they already know. The question is whether enough has been done to satisfy and excite these users, as once lost they are unlikely to return again in the immediate future.

Writer clearly has no problems in this regard, however the Windows Live counterpart, Spaces, seems to be struggling to keep pace with its social networking rivals. The challenges involved in scaling Spaces to the millions of users it supports is perhaps most evident in the large periods between releases. In comparison Facebook and others are increasing the features gap, leaving Spaces trailing behind.  Even with the possibility of a Windows Live Events service in the future, one individual said to me, ” if it took Spaces 2 years to fix ordering lists, what chance do they have of catching up with the leaders now?” This is also shown by the ommission of Spaces from the latest ComScore social networking growth figures, presumably because it is not counted as a social networking service. This is potentially a big issue for Microsoft, and one that needs to be addressed fast.

This Wave 2 update is also the beginning of what Ozzie calls “Software and Services”, with the services component itself broken down into both web and mobile. The ability to easily interchange between these two states can be seen already from the existing products: Mail / Hotmail, Photo Gallery & Writer / Spaces, and perhaps in the future Calendar desktop / Calendar. Underpinning all of this is the work being done on Live ID by a team who recently released Live ID v5. Kevin Johnson showed a lot of passion for their work last week; it’ll be interesting to see what role they play as we continue on towards the end of the year.

Overall Wave 2 is looking good so far, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done. Microsoft is starting to fall behind in areas it once excelled in, lets just hope this is due to the focus on Search and Windows Live Core.