Strategy-less In Seattle

The rumors regarding what Microsoft would announce on Thursday at its day-long MSN strategy event have been flying fast and furious. It would announce it had licensed its Passport and other MSN services to Yahoo and Excite.

The rumors regarding what Microsoft would announce on Thursday at its day-long MSN strategy event have been flying fast and furious. It would announce it had licensed its Passport and other MSN services to Yahoo and Excite. It would showcase lots of new content-provider deals. It would, at long last, unveil its software hosting strategy.

In the end, Microsoft announced it has a portal strategy. Guess what: nearly all of Microsoft's competitors announced the same thing over the past few days.

So, what did Microsoft have to say?

It has a new slogan. If you thought "Windows Everywhere" was a great rallying cry, you'll probably really love Microsoft's latest: "Everyday Web." Microsoft has decided users don't rely on the Internet enough. So Redmond is looking for ways to make the web more compelling--for day-to-day tasks like bill paying and community interaction. Excuse me, but I don't think these ideas are new. Check out AOL, Yahoo and Excite if you haven't. A million times already.

MSN.Com will morph, yet again, to be a better and more useful hub, Microsoft officials are claiming. How? That's the million-dollar question--which seems to go mostly unanswered, at least in the company's handful of MSN press releases.

To be fair, Microsoft did expand on its megaservices vision, which the company outlined last week (at its equally content-free Windows DNA 2000 launch). Megaservices are componentized services, like Microsoft Passport single sign-on, LinkExchange and the like, as well as forthcoming third-party components, like tax services and catalog services. Developers are going to be able--some day, but not today--to snap together these components and assemble in a jiffy web-enabled apps.

Microsoft also showed off its new small business sub-portal on MSN.Com, discussed its new Careers channel, announced new licensing plans for MSN Messenger and unveiled a new search engine. Neat, but not earth-shattering. The beta of the bCentral.Com small-biz portal doesn't go live until Sept. 30.

Microsoft also took another stab at explaining better some wireless-access technology it previewed at the Windows DNA event last week. That's what MSN Mobile seems to be: the connection mechanism that will let you coordinate calendars with other soccer moms about your daughters' next big game--right from your cell phone. I will give Microsoft some credit here: Oracle announced it has a similar vision (surprise, surprise), code-named Project Panama. I have serious doubts that Oracle has anything more than a code name at this point.

I have to say, I was surprised that Microsoft had so few tangibles to show at MSN Strategy Day. I keep wondering: what's going on? Some of the most talented development and marketing people at Microsoft are now working in the company's Consumer and Commerce Group. So how did Microsoft seemingly get so far behind, when it comes to its Internet strategy? What's your take? Talk back below and let me know.

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