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After months spent mastering the basics, though, the service is starting to move independently of its parent--MSN--and to carve out its own identity. In recent months, Microsoft has taken the beta tag off Windows Live Hotmail, added the Windows Live Photo Gallery and SkyDrive services, and completed mobile versions of Live Search and other services.
"I really feel great about where we are with the product and the release, but also overall with the online services business," said Chris Jones, corporate vice president for Windows Live. "I think that there is obviously more for us to do and more opportunity, but that's what makes it fun."
In an interview, Jones talked about how things are going with the effort. He also discussed where he thinks Windows Live fits into the social-networking world, considered the company's struggles in search, and gave praise to the iPhone.
Q: Microsoft first talked about Windows Live back in 2005. At the time, Microsoft had Hotmail, Spaces, and MSN Messenger as its three main services. Those are still the big three for the company. How much has really changed?
Jones: I think what you're seeing is really the delivery of the vision that we talked about a couple of years ago, where with Windows Live our goal is to build a service that helps you get to the information you care about, and communicate and share with the people you care about, and really on the devices that you care about.
We've delivered a rich set of Windows client software that lets you connect to those services, and we've delivered software on your mobile phone, particularly on Windows Mobile, but also browser-based ways on your mobile phone to get to those services.
Then the other thing we've done is we've evolved the services. With Spaces you can now go beyond just blogging to sharing your photos and sharing your files and sharing events. With Mail we've gone beyond just the standard HTML view to AJAX and rich mail, rich calendaring, really improved contacts, and then synchronization across your devices.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked earlier this year about being ready to have a conversation later this year with developers about some of those things. Is that still going to happen this year?
Jones: I think some of those conversations have been happening, and I think that that's one where you'll just continue to see us evolve and make progress. A good example of that is the contact interchange work that we just did with Bebo, where you can use the Windows Live platform and that platform capability to connect between the Bebo social network and the Windows Live network.
What kinds of new services would you like to see under the Windows Live banner?
Jones: I think that what we're really focused on is actually making the experiences easier and more seamless for people. Let's take something like photos. People have a lot of photos in their digital camera, but fewer of those people take their photos to their PC, and still fewer of those people share them on a Web site; they mostly e-mail them around.
So, what you should expect us to do is just continue to make it easier for people to take their memories and share them with others.
We did a great job, I think, with photos in this release of Windows Live. I think movies would be a natural thing for us to think about doing, make it easy for people to create and share their personal movies with other folks.
Another good example would be really thinking about calendar sharing, where today we have a great calendaring service, but the ability for you to actually share that, have a shared calendar with a set of people that you care about, that's possible today, but it's quite hard, and it's a problem that we could actually solve for people.
The last thing I'll say is I think that what you've seen us do in this release of Windows Live is really have an approach where we allow you to bring the services you care about into the experience, or publish out to those services. So, in this release we publish to Flickr and we publish to Windows Live Spaces from the Photo Gallery. You might imagine that there will be other photo sites that people are interested in publishing to, and those are the kinds of capabilities we'll look at.
That kind of dovetails into one of the other things I was going to ask. Where is it important for Windows Live to plug into Internet services from other companies?
Jones: I think you'll see us, at least in Windows Live, focus on helping customers in two areas. One is getting your information from anywhere, and that means that regardless of the service your information is stored on, we want to help you get to that information.
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