Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

Summary: Microsoft is taking the official wraps off Windows Live Wave 3, its consumer-focused set of services which will be phased in over the next several months. The goal of this rollout is to simplify Windows Live -- an admirable, formidable and seemingly nearly-untenable goal, given the branding and positioning problems Windows Live has faced for the past few years.

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Microsoft announced Thursday its rollout plans for what's been known as "Windows Live Wave 3" -- the latest incarnation of the myriad Windows Live consumer-focused services.

Company officials say the goal with the new release -- which will be phased in over the next several months -- is to simplify Windows Live (Techmeme). That's an admirable and formidable goal, given the branding and positioning problems Windows Live has faced for the past few years.

Even under the new kinder, gentler Windows Live regime, there are still a LOT of confusingly named and seemingly overlapping Windows Live services in Microsoft's arsenal. Here's a partial list, from the Windows Live Reviewers Guide:

Windows Live Wave 3 to wash onto users’ machines over next few months

Some of the Windows Live services are considered "rich" services, which seems to mean they have a software and a services component. Examples: Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Movie Maker. (These "rich "services are part of the Microsoft Windows Live Essentials suite. The latest version of these Essential services are considered by the Softies to part of the Windows Live Wave 3 family.) The Essential services are the ones that will be complementary to Windows 7, replacing a number of the formerly bundled Windows applets, like Mail, Movie Maker, etc.

Then there are a bunch of Windows Live Wave 3 services that are purely services, with no software component. Examples: Windows Live Skydrive, Windows Live Sync (a k a Foldershare), Windows Live Photos (which is different from Windows Live Photo Gallery) and Windows Live Hotmail (which is different from Windows Live Mail). And Windows Live Messenger is part of both the "rich" family and the services-only family in Microsoft's latest taxonomy.

(Yeah, I am still confused, too. Even after getting to page through the 35-page Windows Live Reviewers guide.)

All of these Windows Live Wave 3 services are not available immediately. They are being rolled out over a period of months.

Some -- such as Windows Live Hotmail -- have a nearly six-month planned rollout schedule. Phase one of the new Wave 3 Hotmail started rolling out in September. POP mail access isn't slated to start rolling out as part of Hotmail Wave 3 for a few more months (Q1 or so in 2009).

Here's the rollout schedule from the Reviewers Guide:

Windows Live Wave 3 to wash onto users’ machines over next few months

As if all this weren't confounding enough, there are a bunch of brand-new elements that Microsoft is introducing as part of its Windows Live Wave 3 strategy. I'm not saying these aren't interesting/useful pieces of the Live puzzle. I just find them confusing because they are being lopped into the wider Wave 3 announcement.

First, Microsoft is de-emphasizing Windows Live Spaces. Existing Spaces don't disappear. But now Microsoft is repositioning the centralized Windows Live user profile areas as the revamped start.live.com sites. Users' start.live.com page will look a lot like Facebook, with a centralized activity feed. Check it out (click on the image to magnify it):

Windows Live Wave 3 to wash onto users’ machines over next few months

Sharing user data with one's network of contacts if optional and can be opted out of at a granular level.

Microsoft also is announcing as part of its Wave 3 launch that it has signed up a number of partners willing to allow an exchange of user data between their sites and Windows Live. Among the partner sites with whom Windows Live users will be able to share their data are Flickr, iLike, Pandora, PhotoBucket Twitter, Yelp and more. (Missing from the list, as a few bloggers have noted, are Facebook and MySpace, both of which have been doing their best to keep their Web 2.0  communities walled gardens.)

Microsoft is introducing its cleaned-up and relaunched Windows Live Groups as part of the Wave 3 unveiling. It also is acknowledging the renaming of FolderShare as "Windows Live Sync," although not doing much to explain why you'll need Sync once Live Mesh becomes incorporated into the Windows Live platform fabric.

So there you have the 50,000-foot overview. Microsoft has a big Windows Live mess to clean up and it will, no doubt, take several more waves to do so.

In the interim, what do you think of the latest strategy/deliverables on the Windows Live front?

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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12 comments
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  • So why the deemphasizing of Live Spaces?

    I find that strange that the Windows Live Team is not updating Spaces for Wave 3. Right now, the service is suffering from a number of issues: commentary spam, performance and the fact that Windows Live Writer should be web interface instead of this fat client that just times out every time you try to make a post to your blog. Yes, its one thing for them not to kill the service and existing Spaces, but to just to leave it hanging to create a FaceBook alternative seems like a weak desperate move that's only going to backfire. The fact that partnership between FaceBook and My Space is not included with Wave 3 says a lot about the endeavor of this new release.
    Mr. Dee
  • RE: Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

    KISS no longer applies in the hierarchal strategies! Confuse your listeners and lose them!
    woodwardt@...
  • RE: Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

    This is good progress. It is starting to make more sense to me how this stuff can fit into my daily routine. The new start page is pretty interesting and is something that I feel is needed.
    rjohn05
  • RE: Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

    Folks, if you are interested, there is extensive coverage (including many videos from Microsoft) about the Wave 3 launch over on www.liveside.net and http://windowslivewire.spaces.live.com These guys live and breath Windows Live info.
    Super2online
  • So What's Live Wave?

    So what's Live Wave?

    More confusion in naming from these guys. Unbelievable!
    curph
    • There is no "Live Wave"

      It's not "Live Wave", but rather, "Windows Live, the third wave".
      ErikNYC
  • Missing from the list... Picasa, too.

    I noticed the Google service Picasa wasn't listed either. I'm assuming none of the other Google services will be cross-linked to WLW3 either?
    BillDem
  • RE: Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

    It has the feel of them being desparate to find the "killer app" that has users flocking. The problem is that they keep changing apps. Spaces is a good example of this. And the problem here is that users like me, that have gone ahead and created spaces, end up having to start over again. And because of that experience, we'll be more hesitant about doing anything with the latest-and-greatest app to be rolled off the line. So just when they want MORE users, they're going to end up with FEWER users. After all, who wants to keep recreating their Microsoft "site", wherever that site may be? I have no confidence that the latest attempt at a killer app is going to stick, so why bother?
    dnaetoa
  • RE: Windows Live Wave 3: Microsoft's kinder and simpler consumer services strategy?

    I agree with rjohn05. This is the first time that there seems to be some sort of an alignment to the Windows Live brand.

    I think the Profile page is interesting if it can coalesce all of my various social networking sites intelligently.
    ErikNYC
  • Clarification

    You do seem to be a bit confused as to which are "rich" services (those with a software and a service component), even putting some things in both lists.

    For clarification, none of the offline software have the same name as an online service. Here are some examples of software from the Essentials pack and their corresponding services (normally the software component offers offline versions of its relevant service, e.g. Mail/Hotmail, or synchronisation to its service, e.g. Writer/Spaces, etc):
    [Software - Service]
    Windows Live Photo Gallery - Windows Live Photos
    Windows Live Mail - Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Calendar & Windows Live People (formerly known as Windows Live Contacts)
    Windows Live Writer - Windows Live Spaces
    Windows Live Messenger - Windows Live Hotmail WebIM (aka Windows Live Messenger for Web) & Windows Live Groups
    Windows Live Movie Maker beta - can publish to MSN Soapbox, YouTube, etc
    Windows Live Family Safety - features an online control panel (at fss.live.com)

    Also, as far as I know the centralised activity feed will be at home.live.com not start.live.com as you said.

    In regards to any comments about Spaces, now that the whole of Windows Live is being turned into a social network of sorts itself all the services that were bundled under Spaces - which was the main "social" area of Windows Live for the last few years - are being moved out to make it clearer and (hopefully) easier to use. Photos, Events, Groups, Profile, People and even SkyDrive (or at least their previous incarnations) were all accessible through and as subsections of Spaces and, while they will still obviously be linked with and through it, they have become more fledged themselves - leaving Spaces as primarily a platform for blogging.

    Hope all that helps!
    the andyman
  • Surfing the heavens with Microsoft Live Clouds

    A word of caution: Get yourself a Linux parachute or you might not be Live when you land.

    What goes up, must come down. The higher you go, the farther you have to fall. Microsoft is too high for my little old sky.
    Ole Man
    • Still...

      Still clinging on to the failed "The Year of Linux" dream, and other short stories?

      Talking about what goes up and down... Problem is your beloved Linux is incapable of going up to begin with.

      Now that is what you call Epic Fail...
      Qbt