In January 2006, I wrote a Windows Live Preview in which I highlighted Microsoft's November 2005 announcement about the services and provided some historical context to Microsoft's decision to reel in most of its Web services and products under the Windows brand. Looking over that article now, it's stunning how much has changed in the intervening year. What's even more stunning, perhaps, is how much things are going to change yet again going forward. Today, I'd like to discuss Microsoft's evolving plans for Windows Live, and examine how the software giant will, hopefully, meet the needs of its customers by supplying a sensible set of services that work where you do: On the Web, on Windows, and on mobile devices.
A look back: As you may recall, I was nervous about Microsoft's decision in late 2005 to rebrand most of its MSN services as Windows Live because that mean that the MSN group, which was both physically and ideologically distant from the slow-moving Windows division of the time, would be pulled in-house. That, I opined, could have only two possible results: Either the MSN guys would inspire the Windows group to ship products on a timelier basis, or the MSN group would become saddled by the inefficient of the Windows group and slow down so much as to be ineffective.
Fortunately, neither of those scenarios played out, possibly through sheer chance: Instead, Microsoft put the hyper-efficient (and hyper-secretive) Steven Sinofksy in charge of Windows development, ending any delay issues there. And the MSN/Windows Live guys seem to have retained their independence thanks in part to Microsoft's US antitrust consent decree: Whereas the company might previously have attempted to directly integrate products like Windows Live Messenger into Windows, now they are optional downloads and part of an evolving suite of products that enhances Windows only when explicitly chosen by users. In short, that problem was solved before it became a problem.