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Windows Live – It's About Services (or maybe ads)

Sigh…. I know… I know… Microsoft… evil… proprietary… no cross platform… Windows über alles… etc. Whatever. Look folks, this is really easy. I work for Windows Live and my mission as handed to me by my boss, his boss and his boss's boss is simple – Make money on services.

That's it. It's not 'make money on services and sell Windows' or 'only make money on services running on Windows'. Bzzz…. it's 'make money on services', full stop. This distinction from Windows isn't new to Microsoft. Office, from what I can tell, has run itself as a separate company for years. Nevertheless, there is this expectation that everyone in Windows Live is spending their time thinking deep thoughts about how to sell Windows. Um.. no. I know, with a name like Windows Live you would think Windows Live is all about Windows but 1) I don't do our branding and 2) See the previous mission statement from the first three levels of my management chain.

So with this in mind let's get a few things out of the way. Do you like OS X? Great. Are you a FireFox user? Outstanding. Does Java make you Joyous? Wonderful! I don't care. Seriously, I don't. What I care about is making Windows Live's services successful and for the short and probably medium term that means ads. Windows Live currently has three avenues by which it provides ads:

  • On properties like Hotmail (er I mean Windows Live Mail), Messenger (um… I mean Windows Live Messenger), etc.

  • Serving ads to third parties and

  • when third parties consume Windows Live services to build their own services and get Windows Live ads along for the ride.

There are other monitization mechanisms but for now ads own the show. So when I think about OS's and browsers and such the only question is – how much 'reach' does this OS or browser provide versus the investment needed in order to support that browser/OS? In other words it's a simple return on investment calculation.

Today the math says that Windows Live absolutely must support IE and FireFox and that's why all new Windows Live services like work well on both browsers. Safari and Opera also get attention but not nearly as much as IE/FireFox.

In terms of OS's, for things that don't run in the browser, Windows is the absolute, undisputed king. With dominance on the desktop they are the most important game in town. And let's be clear, Windows is an amazing success with enormous reach and you can be sure I'm going to do everything I possibly can to leverage that reach.

But OS X actually gets more love then you might think mostly because its users tend to be early adopters/thought leaders (I can't prove that btw, it's just an impression, maybe I've been watching too many Apple ads on my family's two Macs). But honestly I worry a lot more about mobile platforms (which are a real free for all) then I do about desktop OS's. I also occasionally worry about game platforms like XBOX 360 and PS3 (whenever it's released). Let's face it, those boxes are becoming PCs and could make a huge dent in the desktop market. I already know people who use their XBOX more for movies and pictures then games!

But in any case, I'd like it if my friends would please stop assuming that just because I work for Microsoft this means that all I care about is Windows and IE. It simply a'int so. The truth is that all I really care about is making Windows Live's services successful and any browser, OS, development environment, language, whatever that can help that happen is something I'm happy to support.

2 Responses to Windows Live – It's About Services (or maybe ads)

  1. Roger says:

    so you are now officially the bait for the mousetrap?

  2. Administrator says:

    At some point I’m going to write an article about why I really don’t like ad based services. It creates a situation where the customer is not the end user but rather is the advertiser and that generally means that the services are no where near as good as they could be if the competition was for user dollars rather than for advertiser dollars. That’s why I am actively looking into alternate monitization opportunities that get rid of the middleman. But for the moment, yes, absolutely and unquestionably – we’re bait.

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