Microsoft: Success of 'Live' hinges on Asia

The software giant is using the region as a yardstick to measure the impact of its Windows Live portfolio of software and online services.
Written by Aaron Tan on

HONG KONG--Microsoft has outlined its game plan for Windows Live in Asia, which the software vendor says will feature local innovation and mobility elements.

Speaking at a media briefing here Wednesday, Bill Shaughnessy, general manager of MSN and Windows Live, described the opportunities for Windows Live in Asia as "mind-boggling". Launched in November last year, Windows Live encompasses various Internet-based personal services, such as e-mail, blogging and instant messaging. The product is primarily supported by advertising and runs separate from the operating system.

"We will not be successful with Windows Live if we're not successful in Asia," he said.

Microsoft hopes to establish itself against rivals Yahoo and Google. For starters, it plans to establish a developer community around its Windows Live software and services to deliver unique features tuned for markets across Asia.

Local developers can make use of Windows Live APIs (application programming interfaces) to create local variants of the Microsoft product. They can also build rival products such as office productivity suites, using the APIs and offer these solutions as a hosted service, Shaughnessy said.

He noted that Microsoft is not unduly worried about products and services that compete with Windows Live.

Shaughnessy said: "It takes a lot more effort to convince a customer to move away from [Microsoft] Office than just a [competitor offering software as a service] business model."

Apart from catering to local demands, Microsoft also wants to ride on the mobility wave that is sweeping across this region.

"The world's largest mobile market is in Asia," Shaughnessy said. "There are about 400 million cellphones in China, growing at some 50 million cellphones a year. India is also on a similar growth trajectory."

As a result, he predicted, many in China and India may just be hooking up to the Internet for the first time via their cellphones. This presents an enormous opportunity to deliver Windows Live services--including Windows Live Mail and Live Messenger--to mobile devices, he said.

The explosive growth of the Internet also makes Asia particularly attractive to Windows Live. Shaughnessy noted that there are some 110 million PC online users in China who make up only 8 percent of the country's population. "If we can get 60 percent of the Chinese population on the Internet, we'll get 800 million users [for Windows Live]."

Growing in tandem with Internet penetration is online advertising, which Microsoft is betting on to monetize most of its Windows Live services. Shaughnessy noted that the world's top online advertising markets are in Asia. For instance, Japan and Korea are the second and fourth largest Web advertising markets in the world, respectively, he said.

Gartner, however, noted in a report last November that Microsoft will face a challenge evolving its business model to one that uses advertising, transactions and subscriptions, with its OneCare Live security service.

But, Shaughnessy was optimistic.

"While our traditional business model [of software licensing] is healthy and thriving, advertising will be the predominant revenue stream for Windows Live," he said. "We also believe there is ample room to innovate on subscription and transaction-based services."

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Hong Kong.


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