Microsoft's Windows 7 challenge: Selling Live services (without being sued)

I was wondering how aggressively -- or not -- Microsoft would market Windows Live services once it began selling Windows 7. The answer seems to be somewhat aggressively. But is that tepid enough to keep the Softies out of antitrust hot water?

I was wondering how aggressively -- or not -- Microsoft would market Windows Live services once it began selling Windows 7.

The answer seems to be somewhat aggressively. But is that tepid enough to keep the Softies out of antitrust hot water?

For more than a year now, Microsoft has been pulling certain features out of Windows and making them available as free "rich" services. The suite of these services is known as Windows Live Essentials (WLE) and includes Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Live Writer, Messenger and Mail.

Although Microsoft officials take care to avoid saying that removing features and offering them separately might be motivated in any way by the threat of antitrust suits, I'd think this would be one (big) definite upside for the WLE strategy/approach. The downside (for Microsoft) around this decoupling is that the company needs to find ways to get users to understand that these functions are available for free download, or, in some cases, preloaded by PC makers on new machines.

I asked Microsoft officials how they intended to let consumers know about the existence of Windows Live Essentials (WLE), a bundle of several Windows Live services meant to complement Windows 7, and received via e-mail this list of "ways we are educating consumers about the offering":

  • The most recent version of Windows Live Essentials (WLE) can be downloaded from download.live.com
  • Most large OEMS will ship WLE on Windows 7 PCs.  For example, we have already announced that Dell will ship WLE on its machines, and we expect to announce other specific partners in the coming months.
  • Windows.com and Microsoft.com both include information on WLE and where to go to download it
  • Windows 7 users can find a link to download (download.live.com) WLE within the Control Panel.  An easy way to find this link is who search to type Windows Live Essentials into the Start Menu search bar
  • We offer WLE as an Optional Update through the Microsoft Update program
  • Customers who are enrolled in Windows Update will receive automatic upgrades to any WLE applications they have installed on their PC
  • WLE is highlighted in the Getting Started experience within Windows for new PC purchasers

One way Microsoft also is getting the word out, which company officials didn't mention, is by featuring WLE on new "Signature" PCs that are sold through Microsoft's own Store.

As Todd Bishop over at TechFlash noted recently, the Windows 7 PCs that Microsoft is highlighting on the Microsoft online store come with a number of Microsoft software and service offerings -- including WLE -- preloaded. (The Signature PCs also include Microsoft Security Essentials, Silverlight, Bing 3D Maps, Zune 4.0, plus a few select third-party wares, like Adobe Flash and Reader.) Signature PCs include systems from Sony, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo and other vendors.

I'm surprised we haven't seen Microsoft push WLE more than through some rather vague mentions by Microsoft spokesperson of the year, the now-five-year-old Kylie. But maybe the specter of looming antitrust busters is keeping the Softies from going all-out with a splashy WLE campaign.

Do you think any of the ways Microsoft is promoting WLE -- including the new Signature PCs --might leave open loopholes for Microsoft's competitors to run screaming to the authorities?

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