With the announcement of Windows Live in November 2005, and the transition of most existing services to the new brand in the first half of last year, the future of MSN appeared somewhat bleak. Since he was hired away from Ask.com last April, Steve Berkowitz has looked to change that perception. He has been conducting numerous interviews with the press to reinforce the idea that MSN is still an important part of Microsoft's online offerings, reassuring MSN's advertisers. Traditional banner advertising on MSN properties is performing well, according to Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell, and Berkowitz has taken steps to assure advertisers that they are not being forgotten. The in-beta video service MSN Soapbox was perhaps the first sign that not every Microsoft internet service would be headed to Live, although it now appears that this is only the beginning.
A concerted effort by the various MSN teams in a project apparently dubbed "The January Effect" will result in a significant portal-wide update over the coming weeks. An updated user-interface will be the most obvious change, as will some of the new features such as polls, ratings and message boards, all designed to increase user interaction across the various MSN properties.
These changes should hopefully remind us that MSN is still alive and kicking, and that Windows Live is only part of the bigger picture of online content, services and advertising at Microsoft.