Microsoft Announces ‘Live Software’ Initiative

Here are just my notes from the announcements today:

Bill Gates just announced Microsoft's latest Big Bet: Live Software. If you think it's all just marketing speak (I admit that at first, I was leaning that way), please read my whole entry. The demos they did were pretty darn convincing.

He called this a "new software experience". Hardware trends show that as performance, memory, and so forth have improved, the price has gone down. Scenarios with media that would not have been possible before are now firmly in our grasp. Devices are pervasive and lower cost. Live software works with many devices. Instead of the device being the focus, the focus is on the software. For example, the software service knows about the user, and as that user goes from one device to another, it remembers preferences and so forth, learning what experience is best for that user.

The number of scenarios in lifestyle and workstyle are many. There will be a platform that lets all developers plug into the advertising model. There will be a tiered approach. At the lowest level, there is an advertising model, and at the highest level there are pay-to-use services.

Is this a completely new idea? Not entirely. In 1999 there was a company meeting in which Microsoft declared its intent on having an 'update infrastructure' approach to software. For example, Windows XP SP2 was automatically updated to desktops. Office Online delivers a lot of content and it improves with each use across the globe. Office has Live Meeting, a great example of a service or a server. MSN fits the live paradigm very well. Feature improvements are brought to the user periodically. A lot of these things stretch out to enterprise scenarios. We are talking about the entire set of users out there. Microsoft Managed Services (MMS) lets us manage big corporate infrastructures for companies. Exchange is in this space as well with Spam protection and a whole spectrum of things that can be turned over as a service. We want to give people a choice.

At the ultimate consumer end of this, that gets us talking about XBox Live where there is a rich broadband experience. XBox 360 has a load of services. For example, there is an XBox Marketplace where users can purchase upgrades to bits and pieces of their gaming experience. For example, they have an account that allows them to make "Micropayments". So, a parent can set up a balance of Micropayments for a child who can then spend them at will, perhaps spending it all on one big enhancement or spending tiny bits of the balance on a lot of smaller upgrades.

Bill said, "Wherever there is a server involved, there should be a service as well." Two great examples of Live Software are two centerpieces announced today. Both of these services are the result of learning we have gained from our experience with MSN. They are natural extensions to Office and Windows. Both connect up to advertising models and subscription models.

Windows Live


  • Internet-basd personal services

  • Centered on the individual

  • Communications, information, protection

  • Separate from Windows

  • continues as programmed content portal

  • Primarily ad-supported

Office Live

  • Internet-base4d servicves for growing and managing business online

  • Online prescence, collaboration

  • Intial target is small business

  • Extensible platform

  • Subscription-based at one level and ad-based at another

What technologies are involved?

  • Multimedia/DRM

  • Dynamic Systems Initiative

  • XML/Web services

  • Mapping

  • Machine Learning

  • Speech/Ink

  • Vision

  • Translation

This is the beginning of the "Live" era: Software Plus Services.

Bill turned it over to Ray Ozzie, who is driving this initiative at Microsoft. We are moving from hierarchical structures to a mesh. We are moving from 'corporation to federation.' The line between work and home has forever blurred because of WiFi and other improvements. The world has changed. He believes that Internet services are transformative for the industry and for society more generally speaking. There are three key trends:

  1. Demand for seamless user experiences across devices and systems

  2. Emergence of new adoption and delivery mechanism

  3. Viability and relevance of business models centered on advertising

Micrososft will be shipping on a faster rhythm. We will be striving for seamless experiences that weave together hardware, software, and online experiences. iPod is a great example. Xbox Live is a great example. In enterprises and small businesses, the imperative is just as great. They are paying somebody $175/hour to come into their company to reboot their Internet access. They want a better experience.

This means a better adoption and delivery model. People Try-Buy-Use-Review-Recommend etc. This works for music and other things, why not software? Why not put out two versions of a piece of software and figure out which one works better, which one is preferred?

Ray spoke more about Windows Live and its unification of People, Information, Devices, and Applications. Some of the services have grown out of MSN properties, and others are very new. He reiterated that this is a separate product offering from Windows. Anyone can use Windows with or without Windows Live. Windows Live interfaces will be documented so competitors can get involved. The OS will continue on.

Blake Irving took over to demo Windows Live. He showed the Windows Live homepage. For people who want programmed content- they will have For those who want a more personalized experience, they will go to the page. Blake had trouble with the Internet connectivity, so he started extemporizing.

He mentioned Microsoft Gadgets. For example, one can add Yahoo's Flickr site into the Windows Live home page for him. I was able to connect with no problem from my desk, and I have to say that the home page was really slick and easy to configure. I speak French fluently, so I changed my language to French in about 1/8th of a second:

At this point, Ray bailed him out (I felt sorry for him). He began to talk about the new range of services. Then, connectivity was restored, and Blake was back. I was glad to know he is into Cycling.

He then talked about Windows Live Safety Center. It allows a person to see PC health right on the home page. He also showed a lot of features relating to connecting with people and so forth. These had to do with Windows Live Messenger. It's better than MSN Messenger. One of the really compelling features (they were all good) had to do with two people letting each other into a close circle of contact. As one person updates his address, it is automatically updated on all of the devices and in all of the experiences for people who are in his contact circle. There are also shared folders.

Then, he showed Windows Live Local. It is a super-powerful online mapping service. Blake looked for a restaurant using the mapping feature. He could see a birds-eye view, side view and rotate things 180 degrees.

Finally, he used Windows Live Messenger to make a phonecall to the restaurant over the Internet.

One of the things he did not have time to show was Favorites. I, for one, am so friggin' tired of having to copy my favorites from machine to machine, and I can never keep them in sync. Go here to get into it:

Those days are over!

Then Rajesh Jha took over to show Office Live. There are three main goes:

  • Professional Online Presence for free

  • Manage business online with subscription service integrated into Office

  • Partners can enhance Office live for specific needs.


 Rock Thought for the Day: A lot of bands use the theatrical dimension of 'the dark side of the Force' to help sell albums. Marilyn Manson is a great example. At the end of the day, he's pretty much like Ozzy only younger. Someday he will have a reality show and we'll get to see him complain about his latest root canal...gripping.

Another band is HIM. It stands for "His Infernal Majesty". Uh...OK. We're so scared.

Equally regrettable is that their Heavy Metal is mediocre. It's heavy metal alright, but it's really just soft lead. Don't waste your time on their album, "Love Metal." They're really just an emo band that lost its way. I haven't listened to their whole body of work, but this album was pretty disappointing.

Rock On

Comments (1)
  1. nikihlkh says:

    Thanks for summing it up, John. It was surely informative.

    I feel the Windows Live initiative is something brilliant which MS has come up with to tackle growing competition in this sphere. After all, it has a proven ad-based business model and extremely effective execution capibility of MS. Moreover, considering that most of the buyers of licensed software are large enterprises, this is a great way for MS to diversify. Some people have been talking about how Windows Live may lead to canibalization of existing sales. I feel thats not surely gonna happen in the short term – but may be in the long term. Like Ballmer said, its better that MS cannibalizes itself than its competitors edge away with the market share.

    On the software development front, I feel it is so much easier to maintain and support the security, versioning of services that are offered online. Upgrades are much more simple compared to upgrading the installed software base of client-only applications(issues of backward compatibility etc.). This will surely give MS the much needed agility and faster time to market – which is extremely critical.

    It is like something was waiting to happen – and it surely did! Good for everyone – the consumer and the industry as a whole!

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