June 9, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Microsoft enlists developers for Live push

In Microsoft's burgeoning competition with Google, the software company is recruiting its most trusted allies: software developers.

At its TechEd conference next week in Boston, Microsoft is expected to further detail the "Windows Live Platform," the centerpiece of its strategy to foster creation of third-party applications that run in conjunction with its Live-branded Web sites.

During a keynote speech, Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will seek to translate how Microsoft's hosted services relate to developers and IT professionals, according to people familiar with the plans.

Until now, Microsoft's top executives have discussed Live products, such as the company's Windows Live and Office Live, primarily as consumer or small-business services--including instant messenger, Web-based e-mail, Web hosting, and mapping.

But as it builds a full line of services, Microsoft is firmly keeping the developer and IT professional in mind, say company executives.

Next week, Microsoft is expected to launch a Web site, called Windows Live Dev, to offer software developers some technical resources and ideas for using Microsoft services. The site is meant to complement an existing Microsoft Developer Network site launched in March.

Making services useful to developers and IT professionals--Microsoft's traditional audience--is one way Microsoft can differentiate itself from online competitors Google and Yahoo, which typically appeal to consumers, said analysts.

Window Live chart

"If Microsoft is able to pique the attention of developers, developers will be surprised with the collection of services Microsoft already has," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group. "It's not like they are jumping into the game to draft behind Google."

My API: Have at it
Google's efforts to diversify from its core search business with hosted applications, such as Google Spreadsheets, typically generate a great deal of media coverage and speculation.

The search giant has taken several steps to make its Web properties be programmable, making them a suitable platform for building mash-up applications that combine information from multiple Internet sources.

Google actively courts developers by providing application programming interfaces (APIs) on a dedicated Web site it launched last year. This allows developers or partners to write mash-up applications that tap into--and drive traffic to--Google's Web properties, such as search, Google Maps or its ad-serving service.

Though Google doesn't sell development tools, its engineers have created some, such as a recently released AJAX Web development kit for Java programmers.

These developer-friendly moves should worry Microsoft, said Bernstein Research analyst Charles DiBona. Pundits say if more developers begin designing applications around Web sites, rather than the Windows operating system, Microsoft stands to lose.

"We think that Google poses a threat to Microsoft long-term by offering an alternate platform for application development," DiBona wrote in a research note on Wednesday. "But we also believe that Microsoft recognizes this threat and is investing appropriately in its own operations to counter it."

CONTINUED: "How do they make money?"…
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