You don’t hear the term dancing baloney much anymore, but about a decade ago it was the standard description of gratuitous Web gadgetry that designers added to Web pages for no discernable purpose other than that they could. Microsoft yesterday announced a makeover of the formerly spartan Live Search home page and the only way I can classify it is as dancing baloney:
The new design features background images that will change frequently, augmented with what we call "hotspots." These interactive areas highlight parts of the image and help you explore search results related to the highlighted area. Users who have tested this new home page have found it both engaging and a great place to start a search.
Right now the background image seems to be from Botswana and the hidden hotspots reveal various Botswana related factoids. Apparently the "users who have tested this new home page" for Microsoft have a lot of time on their hands.
Speaking of home page makeovers, Microsoft is apparently also rolling out one for MSN, and while I detest the MSN home page heartily for its default mixture of supermarket checkout style celebrity news and cloying shopping and "self help" articles, this change looks more useful.
The good news that the new version (check it out here) adds a sidebar with a tabbed interface for Hotmail, Messenger and Spaces. The bad news is that also adds a player for MSN video with a default selection of "fun" videos which, as I write, features a man completely covered with tattoos. I guess it is someplace for the Live Search test users to go when they get tired of Botswana.
Today, Research in Motion (RIM) and Microsoft announced an agreement to provide Windows Live Messenger and enhanced support for Windows Live Hotmail on RIM’s BlackBerry smartphones:
Microsoft Corp. and Research In Motion (RIM) today announced an agreement to provide Microsoft Windows Live services on BlackBerry smartphones. As a result of this collaboration, BlackBerry smartphone customers will enjoy easy mobile access to Windows Live Messenger and an enhanced level of integration between Windows Live Hotmail and the BlackBerry platform.
The integration of Windows Live services into the BlackBerry platform will allow customers who use Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger on their BlackBerry smartphone to benefit from the BlackBerry platform architecture with the ability to communicate in real time using push technology, and an exceptional mobile communications experience. Customers will also be able to seamlessly access their Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger account from their BlackBerry smartphone by simply entering their Windows Live e-mail address and password once.
There are more details on the features by following the link. Microsoft did a similar (but larger) deal with Nokia back in August, 2007. One wonders whether any money is changing hands in these deals or at least how the porting and support expenses are allocated, but no information has been provided.
In recent months Microsoft has persuaded mobile phone maker Nokia to try Windows Live Search and support PlayReady DRM on some of their phones, but today they took a big step further with the announcement of the trial availability of a suite of Windows Live services in Europe and the Middle East on some Nokia mobiles:
In May, Microsoft launched the Windows Live version of Hotmail, their venerable webmail program, but yesterday they revealed a slew of new usability enhancements including 5GB (up from 2GB) mailboxes for the free accounts. At this point Google’s Gmail is offering 2.8 GB while Yahoo Mail has no storage limit, so by that metric Microsoft jumped to second place. The net is likely that for most users, mailbox size is no longer much of a consideration although in some corollary to Parkinson’s Law, the average user’s mailbox will eventually expand to fill the space available to it.