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December 9, 2006

Microsoft Weekly Miscellany, December 9, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 5:58 PM ET.

Microsoft released a beta of Windows Live Search Books (formerly MSN Book Search) which indexes out-of-copyright books and a new beta of Windows Live Search Academic (formerly Windows Live Academic Search) which indexes academic journals.

Also in Windows Live Land, Windows Live Custom Domains got an update as did Windows Live Expo and the beta of Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi.

Despite the recent demise of Google Answers, Amazon has launched a new question and answer service:

Check out Amazon’s newest service, Askville.

… This is a “questions & answer” site similar to Yahoo, Yedda, AnswerBag, the recently departed Google Answers and even the rarely mentioned Microsoft QnA.

Users turned grumpy over perceived delays in Office 2007 compatibility for Mac Office and Windows Mobile.

Jim Allchin explains Vista Power Management at incredible length since Microsoft has “enhanced” the operating system’s “power off” switch.

Microsoft, HP and other tech firms plan to push for a new US data privacy law next year.

Another strange Zune ad. Don’t worry, you likely won’t have to restrain yourself from filling your shopping cart with Zunes, but you may want a cookie.

Alcatel may be suing Microsoft but they are still jointly selling IPTV.



Filed under Alcatel-Lucent, Argo, Coopetition, General Business, Google, Governmental Relations, IPTV, Legal, Live Search, MSN, MSN Book Search, Marketing, Office, Office for Mac, Privacy, Technologies, Windows Live, Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi, Windows Live Custom Domains, Windows Live Expo, Windows Live Search Academic, Windows Live Search Books, Windows Mobile, Zune

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August 9, 2006

AOL freebie rollout continues

Posted by David Hunter at 6:35 PM ET.

First, AOL decided to give away their basic membership services free to broadband users (press release here). Then they announced a plan to offer 5GB of online storage free to all comers (press release here). It turns out they were just getting started.

On Monday – AOL Launches Free Anti-Virus Program for All Online Users:

AOL today launched a new free anti-virus program — called Active Virus Shield — for all online users at no cost. Active Virus Shield is powered by Kaspersky Lab, one of the largest Internet security solutions providers in the world, and offers advanced detection technology to stop viruses, spyware, malware and Trojans before they attack, as well as real-time scanning of files and email. The software automatically updates every hour, offering an easy and convenient way for consumers to protect themselves from the thousands of new Internet threats created each month.

Active Virus Shield can be downloaded at www.activevirusshield.com

Active Virus Shield is free of charge, and there is no obligation or AOL membership required to use it. Active Virus Shield works with Windows XP (home & Professional), NT, 2000, ME, & 98, Internet Explorer 5.5 and above, and requires about 50MB of spare disk space.

This seems to be a subset of the “Total Care” package that AOL was rumored to be working on and the description makes it out to be a fairly conventional antivirus offering, presumably one of Kaspersky’s standard products. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Windows Live OneCare, but it gets a user a lot of the way there and it’s free which undercuts even Microsoft’s lowball OneCare pricing and has a cachet all its own:

“Antivirus protection is too important to make people have to pay for it,” an AOL representative told CNET News.com in an e-mail interview.

Indeed, but wait, there’s more! Today, it was announced that AOL To Offer Personalized Email Domains for Free to All Web Users:

AOL today announced that, starting in September, it will make personalized email domains available for free to all Web users. AOL is the first company to offer this service, which will be called AOL(R) My eAddress, at no charge.

With AOL My eAddress, anyone can set up and register a completely customized email address using .COM or .NET domains, and add up to 100 additional identities onto their personal domain, all at no charge. For example, someone could choose a domain that family, friends, teams, social organizations and others could use, for example anyname@mygroupname.com,” and other members within that group could have their own email identity using that domain. Or, Individuals can also choose to set up a new personalized address with the popular and widely-used AOL.com domain, at no charge.

Consumers will be able to use their personalized My eAddress domain as an email address, as their AIM(R) address to send and receive instant messages and access their Buddy List(R) feature, to access features across the AOL network, and, coming soon, as the address of their own personal Web page on the free AIM(R) Pages social networking service.

– Setup, registration and the use of a My eAddress email domain and identity is all free (one domain per user), as is the ability to invite other people to join their personalized domain. Each account holder can add up to 100 additional personal email identities associated with their domain, all managed through an easy Web-based control panel.

At first blush it appears to be the equivalent of Windows Live Custom Domains, but it has a critical difference. With Custom Domains you show up with your already registered domain name and Microsoft gives you email. With My eAddress, it appears that AOL is going to be registering and renewing the domains for their users for free much like Microsoft does with Office Live Basics. I guess domain registration is now the new loss leader in the consumer space as well.

Update 8/10: Kevin Kelleher at The Street.com thinks that AOL’s free domain offer is one of the reasons that domain registrar GoDaddy canceled its IPO.



Filed under AOL, Commoditization, Coopetition, Microsoft, Office Live, Windows Live, Windows Live Custom Domains, Windows Live OneCare

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July 25, 2006

Windows Live Toolbar ships sans marketing

Posted by David Hunter at 11:45 AM ET.

LiveSide (the independent Windows Live news blog) spotted that Windows Live Toolbar is now sporting a “Now released” tag. It’s a browser toolbar that rolls up a variety of convenient features including Windows Live Search and the Onfolio feed reader in one free package. Also related, Windows Live Gallery went into beta. The Gallery provides a library of Microsoft and third party “gadgets” that can be added-in to enhance other Windows Live services including the Toolbar.

But here’s a puzzle. Do you get the feeling that Windows Live marketing has gone AWOL since Martin Taylor’s disappearance? Windows Live OneCare and Windows Live Messenger got press releases when they shipped in May and June respectively (at which point Taylor left), but Windows Live Custom Domains and Windows Live Favorites just got posts in Microsoft blogs when they shipped in June, as did Windows Live Expo when it shipped in July. Now Windows Live Toolbar doesn’t even get a post in a Microsoft blog that I can find.

Admittedly, not all Windows Live offerings are of equal importance, but Windows Live Expo is going to do battle with craigslist for the lucrative classified ad market and Windows Live Toolbar is a control center for a number of important Windows Live features. You’d think Microsoft could pony up a few bucks for some real announcements and a little hoopla if Windows Live were really so important to the company’s future. Could the budget be a little tight, what with the competing demands for Vista, Office, Xbox 360, and Zune marketing, or is marketing just disorganized?

Update 7/26: Microsoft’s Dennis Cheung proved more adept than I at delving into Microsoft blogs. He notes that there was a post about the Toolbar release at Microsoft’s Virtual Earth blog and after my post above, Microsoft’s Live Search blog provided a nice introduction. It’s great that the teams are providing their own publicity since they seem to be the only ones doing it.

Via email, I also received a suggestion that perhaps Microsoft is saving their fireworks for a gala celebration when one of the bigger name Windows Live products ships, say Windows Live Search which has been promised shortly. That’s certainly a possibility, although hoarding all the good news leaves you open to complaints about “old news” when you finally get around to the combined launch. In any case, a combined launch is certainly the place to make up for earlier lost opportunities.



Filed under Beta and CTP, General Business, Live Search, Marketing, Microsoft, Windows Live, Windows Live Custom Domains, Windows Live Expo, Windows Live Favorites, Windows Live Gallery, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live OneCare, Windows Live Toolbar

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June 28, 2006

Some Windows Live news updates

Posted by David Hunter at 9:39 AM ET.

Dare Obasanjo points to a post on the Microsoft Windows Live Custom Domains team blog that reports that Custom Domains is out of beta:

We’re leaving the “Beta tag” blanket at home. That’s right…thanks to your beta testing and feedback; we’ve now officially launched Windows Live Custom Domains. Our colleagues over in Messenger kicked off the Windows Live launch season last week. Along with the launch of OneCare and Live Favorites, we’re excited to continue the momentum. Windows Live is about the Web, the way you want it. Personalization is a key piece here, and let’s face it…your identity online is central to that. Custom Domains enables people to use all of the Windows Live and MSN services they want with an ID that’s as unique to them as they want it to be.

For those who aren’t familiar with Custom Domains, we provide free hosted e-mail for your domain. Let’s say you own the domain name, “wingtiptoys.com.” With Custom Domains, you get unlimited, free e-mail accounts at that domain. You can open accounts for sales@wingtiptoys.com, owner@wingtiptoys.com, etc. Oh wait, did we mention that it’s free? This isn’t one of those “free during beta” trial offers. This is free for life.

New Feature: Open Membership

We’re jazzed about a new feature we’ve added called Open Membership. How does this work? Let’s say you run a website called “soccerfan.com.” Your users love your site and want an e-mail address @soccerfan.com. Prior to this launch, each user would have to request an e-mail account from the administrator. Then, the admin would manually approve and create each account. We’ve made things much easier all around with this launch.

With the Open Membership featured enabled, we provide URL links so users can automatically sign-up for an e-mail account @soccerfan.com. Admins no longer have to burden with the manual creation of email accounts, and users get accounts immediately. Users will love their new email because it’s a brand new MSN Hotmail or Windows Live Mail beta account with a highly personalized @soccerfan.com domain name. Web site owners will love it because their users help promote the site. Also, users will re-visit the host site often to check their e-mail.

I can think of a few serious downsides to providing on-demand email addresses at your domain to whoever drops by on the Web, but the general Custom Domains idea is fine.

This also reminds me that I have heretofore failed to mention that Windows Live Favorites is out of beta as well. It’s the service that allows you to store your browser favorites online.

Finally, the beta of Windows Live Local has added free calling to businesses that appear on your map displays:

A new release of Live Local went out over the weekend. Mostly minor bug fixes, but a few new features made it in as well. One of the more interesting is the ability to phone any business for free. Using it is easy – do a business search by name or category and in the result panel will be a ‘Call for Free’ link next to each business listing. Each pushpin popup on the map will also have the Call for free link. When you click it you specify your phone number -the system will dial both you and the business and connect you. Once you’ve made your first call, you can rapid dial businesses without having to re-enter your phone number.

It’s USA only for the moment and per LiveSide (where there are some screenshots) it is called “Windows Live Call for Free.”

I’m a little puzzled by the monetization of this feature, since Google is running a beta of the similar Click-to-Call in search results ads, but that’s for advertisers only which presumably covers the phone bill. (Yahoo is also testing a similar feature for local search advertisers.) Microsoft, however, seems to be paying the full tab on Call for Free, but without any direct offsetting revenue. Indirectly, of course, they are displaying ads on the page.



Filed under Coopetition, Google, Live Search Maps, Microsoft, Windows Live, Windows Live Call for Free, Windows Live Custom Domains, Windows Live Favorites, Yahoo

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