Not all Microsoft 'Lives' are created equal

Is it time for a Microsoft-wide purge of the "Live" brand? If you look at the myriad, incongruous ways that Microsoft is using "Live" across its various product divisions, you might say yes.

This is another branding rant. But I'm not going to belabor Microsoft's indecision regarding which services to designate "Windows Live and which to brand "MSN."

Instead, it's just "Live" that's got me -- and, I'd wager, customers and partners -- confused. Consider the myriad ways that Microsoft is using "Live" across its various product divisions:

* Windows Live = an evolving bunch of services designed to complement Windows on the client

* Live Search = Microsoft's Web search service. For some reason, it doesn't use the "Windows" prefix like the rest of the Windows Live services do. It also goes by the name

* Office Live = a bunch of SharePoint and other small-business services designed to complement Office on the client

* Xbox Live = a subscription-based online gaming service for Xbox users

* Games for Windows LIVE = a service designed to allow Windows-based gamers to play against Xbox gamers (formerly known as Live Anywhere)

* CRM Live = hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Microsoft will show off a live demo of CRM Live at the Convergence conference on March 15 during CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote address

* ERP Live = still to be determined, but looking more like add-on services than hosted ERP. There's a chance it could mean both, if and when Microsoft gives partners the green light to offer one or more of its ERP suites as hosted products

Microsoft is using "Live" in too many different and incongruous ways to be meaningful. Kind of like what happened with .Net branding before Microsoft made a self-correction a few years back....