I happen to consider Microsoft's Windows Live initiative to be of huge strategic significance to Microsoft 2.0, or however you want to describe the Microsoft of the future.
But I know there are lots of company watchers, partners and customers who consider Live to be nothing but Microsoft's botched plan to rebrand its family of MSN services and make them look shiny and new.
A Microsoft Fortune 500 customer recently asked me to explain Windows Live. Since Microsoft is doing such a lousy job at it, why not take a crack at demystifying Live myself, I mused.
Well, 30 screen shots later, I understand why people are so confounded by Live. In fact, after going out and searching for information on all the Live services I could find, I feel like I'm even more confused about what Windows Live is (and isn't) than I was before.
Problem No. 1: Live isn't a consistently applied term: Sometimes it refers to services (like Windows Live Messenger), sometimes to desktop applications (a k a Windows Live Search Preview), and sometimes to "destinations" (such as Windows Live Gallery).
Then, there's the whole branding/rebranding
mess challenge. As quickly as Microsoft fields a new Live beta, it renames it. Is it MSN Hotmail, Windows Live Mail or Windows Live Hotmail? Windows Search 4, Windows Live Search Center, OneView or Windows Live Search Preview? (Yep, those are all codenames for one thing.) There also are the ungainly names, such as "Windows Live Search for Windows Mobile."
(I'm not even going to touch on the fact that the term "Live" is being applied inconsistently across Microsoft product groups. Xbox Live, Office Live, Dynamics CRM Live and Windows Live have next-to-nothing in common. Why is that?)
Microsoft does not come even remotely close to listing all of the Live services on its supposedly centralized site, the Windows Live Ideas page. It says a lot that the Windows Live watchers over at LiveSide.Net have done a far better job of aggregating a list of the past, present and future Windows Live services.
With Microsoft announcing officially on February 12 a bunch of new Windows Live mobile services (the expected "Windows Live for Windows Mobile" family), it seemed like a good time to capture at a set point in time what Windows Live looks like.
By tomorrow, no doubt, my list of Live services will be outdated. But here's my best attempt at showing and telling what Windows Live is. If there are folks out there -- at Microsoft or anywhere else -- who have additions/corrections to my annotated and admittedly incomplete list, please chime in.