TECH NOUS Software Enters Live Era

Whenever Bill Gates takes to the stage to announce major new product (or in this case service) it’s hard not to sit up and take notice. The man has habit of accurately predicting in which direction technology will take the world – after all, it’s his company’s products that are steering us anyway.
On November 1, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect was in San Francisco, along with chief technical officer Ray Ozzie, to brief journalists and analysts on the company’s vision for delivering “seamless experiences” with internet-based software services.
Microsoft has created two new products – Windows Live and Office Live – targeting consumers and small businesses and designed to complement its core products (Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office).
Windows Live is set of personal internet services such as email, web logs (blogging), instant messaging, photo and file sharing, and PC-based calling. These online services will be offered alongside MSN.com and will primarily be delivered free and supported by advertising, but subscription and transaction-based services will also be available. Users will be able to run Windows with or without the Windows Live services – they are entirely separate.
The other new product, Office Live, is aimed at the approximately 28 million small businesses worldwide that have fewer than 10 employees. It will come in both advertising-based and subscription versions that integrate with standard Microsoft Office programs. And in case you didn’t know, there are more than 400 million people around the world who now use those programs.
There are multiple Office Live offerings. Office Live Basics helps business establish an online internet presence including domain name, website with 30Mb of storage, and five web email accounts at no charge (through an advertising supported model).
Office Live also comes with set of subs-based services with more than 20 business applications to help automate daily tasks such as project management, sales and collateral management, CRM and so on.
Microsoft demonstrated early versions of several new Windows Live offerings at the launch, some of which are accessible at http://ideas.live.com – new website where people can try the latest Windows Live beta services such as MS Live Mail, Live Messenger, Live Safety Centre (where users can scan for and remove viruses from their PC on demand), and OneCare (a PC health subscription service that helps protect and maintain PCs via service that includes anti-virus, firewall, PC maintenance, and data backup and restore capability).
Meanwhile Office Live services will initially be released via beta in the US early in 2006.
Both Office Live and Windows Live services are expected to accelerate Microsoft’s delivery of new products to customers, who will have nearly continuous delivery of new live services and features. And along with that strategy, the Windows development process has been re-engineered to enable more frequent updates across the Windows operating system (as if those updates don’t come often enough already).
Gates describes the change to online services (which of course will never replace paid-for software) as “dramatic sea change” – and not just for Microsoft, but for partners and competitors. Because Windows Live is built off published APIs (application programming interfaces) other software developers will have access to it to create more specialised applications.
Gates puts the Live services on par with Microsoft’s other major strategy shifts, such as its 1995 move to the web and June 2000 commitment to web services.
Certainly these new services help the company take on other online competitors. Ray Ozzie pointed out at the launch that online advertising is an important opportunity, and he acknowledged Google’s role in developing this market. He is predicting US$150 billion market for online advertising in 2015 – considerably up on the US$15 billion today.
My prediction is that large chunk of that revenue will end up in Microsoft’s coffers through these new Live offerings.

Glenn Baker is regular contributor to
Management.
[email protected]

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