On Nov. 1, 2005, Microsoft announced Windows Live, a set of personal Internet services and software designed to bring together in one place all of the relationships, information and interests people care about most, with enhanced safety and security features across their PC, devices and the Web.
Since then, a great many online products and services have rolled out and become popular with millions of people worldwide, including Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live OneCare and others. Microsoft remains committed to delivering an integrated set of services to help consumers more easily and safety communicate and share online, and is focused on helping enable consumers to extend and enhance their Windows PC experience in particular through connected software and services.
Coinciding with a few new services being released into beta testing today, PressPass spoke with Chris Jones, corporate vice president, Windows Live Experience Planning, about Microsoft’s vision for the next generation of Windows Live services and how Windows Live is poised for growth and is evolving along with the customers who use it.
Why is now the right time for a solution like Windows Live?
In terms of technology, the world continues to change drastically. Think back five years – people had PCs with some Internet connectivity to services but largely, their information existed on that one device – the PC. Most people weren’t a part of social networks yet, and they used the Internet primarily to get content and information. Fast forward to today – people are part of multiple social networks, they have multiple devices, and they communicate via e-mail, instant messaging and other services and they have a stockpile of digital photos that they’d love to find better ways to share. The Internet has become more about the services people can access. We think they need one suite of services that makes it easy to do all these things, and that’s where Windows Live comes in.
When we originally announced Windows Live back in Nov. 2005, our intent was to deliver services that would grow and evolve with people as they their needs changed. Today, our vision remains the same, but we’re more focused. We’ve adopted what we call a “software plus services” strategy that we believe puts us in a place to move ahead as we roll out into the next phase of Windows Live by making valuable connections between world-class software and online services to help unlock the real power of technology for consumers in meaningful ways.
How does the next phase of Windows Live help address today’s customer needs?
We’re building an essential suite of software services for individuals around the world that’s designed to help them stay connected (able to browse, create, manage and share with the people they care about, on any device) and protected (with enhanced safety and security features for their information, their families and their devices). Up until now, Windows Live has been primarily defined by individual services, such as Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, and others. That focus has served us well, as our customer base has continued to grow, and now our focus is on delivering a richer, more unified experience to help take the consumer experience with our services to the next level.
We also believe that creating a platform for developers and advertisers is a critical piece of this suite of software services. We understand that not everyone will store their information and do all their communicating on one service or be a part of one social network and we feel it will be essential to help enable other developers, designers and partners to extend the Windows Live software experience to truly deliver a robust customer-centric experience.
A lot of people still wonder – what’s the difference between MSN and Windows Live?
Windows Live is about services – it’s about communicating, social networking, personal productivity, your information, your data, sharing and connecting with the people that you know. MSN is about meaningful or entertaining editorial-driven, programmed content.
What else is Microsoft announcing today?
Today we’re also releasing a couple of exciting new services from Windows Live into managed beta testing: Windows Live Photo Gallery beta and Windows Live Folders beta.
Windows Live Photo Gallery is an upgrade to Windows Vista’s Windows Photo Gallery offered at no charge, and enables both Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2 customers to share, edit, organize and print photos and digital home videos. The initial public beta of Windows Live Photo Gallery beta is available today in nine markets around the world so far (including the United States (English and Spanish), China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Japan, and Spain), with more to come. People looking to test it can download the beta from http://get.live.com/betas . We’re really proud of this service because it’s so easy to share photos – it’s really as easy as sending an e-mail. You can also easily publish your photos to your Windows Live Spaces.
We’re also releasing Windows Live Folders into managed beta today, which will provide customers with 500 megabytes of online storage at no charge. We see this limited managed beta in the United States right now as just a starting point for us, and we’ll begin collecting input from beta users during the testing process, which will be useful when developing future versions of the service. Like I’ve said, it’s very important to us that we give our customers multiple options for connecting to family, friends and information, and share information and other things with the people they care about the most.
We’re excited about these services and we see today’s releases as yet another important step on the path toward the next generation of Windows Live, building on top of the momentum of other interesting beta releases we’ve shared recently such as Windows Live Mail beta, Windows Live Messenger beta and Windows Live Writer beta. And this is only the beginning - in the next couple of months you will see new releases from us that will really start to show the integrated experience I’m talking about that will truly be representative of where we’re looking to go with Windows Live. Just as one small example, soon we’ll begin to offer a single installer which will give customers the option of an all-in-one download for the full Windows Live suite of services instead of the separate installation experience you see today. It’s going to be an excited area to watch here and there’s a lot more to come.
You talk a lot about a software plus services strategy. What does that mean and how does it apply to what you’re talking about today?
It’s become a buzz word of sorts in the industry, but it’s a strategy we truly believe in. The fact that we’re committed to delivering software plus services means we’re focused on building rich experiences on top of your Windows PC; services like those offered through Windows Live. It’s a competitive advantage for us because while some companies offer just one or the other, offering software and services together makes for a stronger customer experience. For example, the photo experience I mentioned earlier with Windows Live Photo Gallery beta or the advances we are making in email with things like Windows Live Mail beta. Customers get the responsiveness, the offline access and the other benefits of a rich client, plus the online services benefits of easy sharing and anywhere access. In the future, expect our software plus services strategy to extend beyond Windows to Office and Windows Mobile as well.
Looking ahead five years we believe every piece of software could come with a service and that customers will come to expect that. We’re ahead of the curve here, but also understand we have a ways to go. We’re always looking for customer feedback – what features would you like to see in Windows Live? How can we bridge Windows and Windows Live in ways that are even more useful? We’re looking to build Windows Live to be what our customers want it to be, so that feedback in central to everything we do.
What can we expect further down the road from Windows Live?
In the coming months, customers can expect us to deliver on this vision with enhancements to all the Windows Live services, including those we’ve announced today. We’ll also make some new products available that align with our software plus services strategy. Ultimately, we want to keep refining, adding and connecting products within our Windows Live portfolio to, as I mentioned earlier, help consumers more easily and safely communicate and share with the people they care about.
In time, we want to people to be able to connect to the content they want regardless of what device they’re on – be it a PC at home or work, or a phone – or what social network they’re a part of. We’re taking proactive steps to make this a reality.