Windows Live: Where to go next?
Over the past few months I’ve really begun to get interested in the various Windows Live offerings that are coming out of Microsoft at the moment. I have Live.com as my homepage, I use Live Maps exclusively, and these in turn cause me to generally use Live Search rather than Google. I wouldn’t say any of them are perfect (I still resort to Google quite alot) but I enjoy getting all my online services in one place from one supplier and to that end I generally applaud what the Windows Live team is attempting to do.
To feed my interest I subscribe to the Liveside blog which is more opinion than marketing and therefore slightly less biased than the Microsoft blogs. Today I’ve read two posts that talk about how far Windows Live has come since it was launched about a year ago and where it is going to go in the future. The latter in particular is of interest because it talks about the challenges Windows Live faces and displays a healthy acceptance of where they are falling down at the moment.
I have a few opinions of myself of course, and the one currently occupying my thoughts concerns the Live.com homepage which I talked about previously here. When I first heard about Windows Live I assumed it was an attempt to put Windows as we all know it in its post-1995 incarnation onto the web. That would make sense of course. There are millions of people who already know the Windows brand and its look-and-feel so it would make sense to unify the desktop and online channels into a consistent offering. But that isn’t what Live.com attempts to be. The interface is new but isn’t all that different from what anyone else is doing on the web. I’m left asking questions like:
- Why does Live.com look like a bog-standard web page rather than having the rich experience of a traditional Windows desktop?
- What about having a Start button from which I can launch all the Live applications to which I am subscribed?
- Why do I click on ‘Options’ to control the look-and-feel rather than use an online ‘Control Panel’?
- Why is there no ‘Help And Support’ link just like there is on my Windows XP Start page?
- When Live Drive arrives, will I be able to browse it using something that looks and feels like Windows Explorer?
- Why can I not access all the Windows Live services that I currently have open via a taskbar and why should I not be able to control the behaviour of that taskbar like I can in Windows XP/Vista?
- How about an equivalent of the Quick Launch toolbar to enable me to access all my favourite Live apps?
I don’t accept that this type of rich user experience isn’t attainable in a web browser. My colleague Rory Street has already talked about Sitecore, a Content Management system in which the web-based user interface behaves exactly like a Windows Desktop. Witness this screenshot:
Compare this to what Live.com currently looks like:
See what I mean? This type of interaction IS possible through a web browsers so why stick with the (yawn) columns and frames that approach every website out there generally goes for. In the end it just ends up looking like a hodge-potch of lots of different things and if you want to understand what is bad about that, read this flame of Amazon.
I’m no UE expert, I admit that, and therefore perhaps I have no grounds to pass judgement. But, I AM a web surfer, and it seems strange to this particular web surfer that Microsoft have neglected their tried and trusted heritage of which they already have an installed user base of millions, possibly billions. I know that my non-techie friends and relatives that still don’t "get" the internet and haven’t even heard the word "google" would feel alot more at home in an interface that they were already used to.
Thoughts? Am I away with the fairies?
Lastly, while we’re talking about funky interfaces in Windows Live, it would be remiss of me not to point out a new Live offering for 2007 – Windows Live for TV. That’s all I’m going to say. If you’re intrigued, click through and read about if for yourself.