I’ve had a little more time to digest the Microsoft Live announcements, read some of the comment from the blogosphere, and chat with some local industry people about their thoughts. I think the funniest bit of commentary was Om Malik’s Microsoft: I Speak Web 2.0, in which he compared the announcements to a guy having a mid-life crisis: "A little nip-and-tuck, some hip-hop and a $500 haircut with highlights to hide the 40-odd summers." A lot of people also noticed, as did Mary-Jo foley, the similarities to Microsoft’s defunct Hailstorm Strategy.
The consensus seems to be that the story was a rebrand, and the only real news was the advertising based business model. I hope there’s a lot more to it than that.
I wonder about Microsoft’s brand strategy. Before there was MSN, Windows, and Office, with a bunch of minor players in the background. Now, Windows and Office are included in the Live brands, but MSN isn’t? Some parts of Live are paid services, and some are advertising supported? Some MSN assets (like Messenger) are becoming Live assets?
Following the 1995 Internet Day announcements it took the better part of a year to get the components announced that day rolled out. Microsoft Live looks like it’s following the same path. The components at www.live.com are really early… perhaps, heaven forbid, a little partially baked. The brand strategy is byzantine, which is bizarre since so much of this announcement was about rebranding. So, perhaps we’re a year away from seeing the true potential of Microsoft Live. And perhaps there’s a year to sort out the marketing mess too.
As an aside, Joel Spolsky muses in this posting that Microsoft’s marketing approach is incompatible with the Web 2.0 mantra of release early, release often. It’s worth reading. Joel is provocative, as always.