Windows Live’s vertical offerings
Windows Live wave 2
never had a set-in-stone release date is being released tomorrow and its hard to place the various Windows Live services into either the wave 1 or wave 2 bucket but there’s no doubt that we’re firmly into the swing of wave 2. Live Calendar is the biggest missing piece and by the time you read this blog entry (I’m currently writing it on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic) it will probably be with us.
So, with much of the services now in place I am interested to see what will constitute Windows Live wave 3. Microsoft’s success is built upon providing platforms and that is exactly what Windows Live now is – its a platform that incorporates authentication (Live ID), cloud storage (Skydrive), photo-sharing (Photo Gallery), blogging (Live Writer and Live Spaces), video-sharing (MSN Video), email (Hotmail and Live Mail), maps (Live Maps), scheduling (Live Calendar), search (Live Search), contacts (Live Messenger and Live Contacts) and others. A platform for what though? Well clearly Microsoft want third parties to build upon that platform (witness http://dev.live.com and http://gallery.live.com) but I wouldn’t mind betting that Microsoft themselves will be providing their own applications on top of this myriad of services and that’s what I think wave 3 will be all about. This is what I like to refer to as vertical offerings on the horizontal platform.
We’re already seeing this of course. Microsoft already provides a number of vertical offerings on top of Windows Live or will be doing in the near future:
- Health vault and http://health.live.com
- An entertainment search vertical
- Live Search club
- http://events.live.com Microsoft made a smart move in building Live Events on top of Live Spaces. Its one of those decisions that, when I heard about it, made me think "Well of COURSE they’re going to do that. It makes complete sense. Why didn’t I think of that?" I am of the opinion that Live Spaces itself is both a vertical offering and a horizontal platform at the same time. Live Events is just another layer.
- http://groups.live.com Live Groups isn’t with us yet and there’s no reason to think that its release is imminent; however, we do know that its coming. There’s no public information available about Live Groups yet but I’d lay a lot of money that says it will be built on the Live Spaces platform in exactly the same way as Live Events. Hence, when Live Groups launches it won’t be a beta service and you will be able to use a top-level-domain for your group i.e. http://your-group-name.groups.live.com. Live Groups will also give people the ability to build their own mini social network. Do you want a dedicated social website for your home town? Or perhaps for your local church? Maybe even for your favourite sports team? Live Groups will give you the ability to have that. I would expect there to be a lot of synergy between Live Groups and Live Events thus allowing us to link events and groups together. Localised online communities may also give rise to the untapped market of internet-based localised advertising. For example, I’m sure restaurateurs in the UK would love to be able to advertise on the purely hypothetical http://the-london-gastronomic-society.groups.live.com; sounds like a strange idea I know but I’m sure its a compelling concept for advertisers.
- http://www.reallivemoms.com Real Live Moms is the clearest indicator of the future that I’m postulating about. A place on the web dedicated to mothers sharing tips and stories on … well… being mothers, and built entirely on top of the Live Spaces platform. Microsoft haven’t released any usage stats for Real Live Moms but I’d be interested to see some.
- http://www.zunesocial.net/ Its not really a Windows Live offering but Zune Social sits fairly and squarely on top of the Windows Live ID authentication platform. It will be released on 13th November.
- XBox Live – The most popular vertical offering I can think of on top of the Live Services platform (unless you count MSN and Live Spaces).
As you can see vertical offerings on top of the horizontal Windows Live platform are alive and well.
So, if you accept that Microsoft will be providing more vertical offerings on top of the Windows Live platform the natural inclination is to question what they might be. Of course, I have a few ideas:
- I would like to see fantasy sports games built on top of Windows Live. Fantasy football and fantasy cricket games have been with us in the UK for many years now and I dare say its the same in other countries too. However, they are all maintained by independent operators that require you to have yet another username and password to remember. There are a lot of advantages to building such an offering on top of the Windows Live platform.
- Global reach
- Results, activities and major news items could be posted to Live Spaces’ "What’s new" feed thus allowing us to see instantly whether my fantasy team has had a good or bad week and also enabling viral growth by showing that same information to my friends.
- Individual mini-leagues could be formed that contain members of a particular Live Group and that mini-league table could be displayed on the Live Group homepage, on my Live Spaces page or on my Vista Sidebar.
- If one of the players in my fantasy team does something noteworthy (e.g. Scores a goal in football or scores a century in Cricket) I could be notified about it in Live Messenger using an alert. Perhaps I could even have a link to an MSN Video video clip automatically emailed to me or have that clip stored in my Skydrive?
- A Live Agent could be built that allows us to make changes to our fantasy team without even going near a web page.
- Prizes could be offered as Microsoft Points.
There’s a lot of possibilities for leveraging the various Windows Live services for such an offering and I for one find it all rather compelling.
- A GPS-based service that can share my current location with my contacts, on a Live Map. I’ve talked about this at length a few times before, primarily here. However, news from earlier today indicates that Yahoo may have gotten there first.
- A virtual world to rival Second Life and Sony’s Home. We know this is coming.
There’s no reason why these need to be built by Microsoft of course. Does anyone out there fancy building some of these or is building Facebook apps too much of an attraction/distraction?
One last thought, I would like to see other business units within Microsoft be given free-rein to build these services. I see no reason why development has to stay in Redmond. If a fantasy football offering is to be provided that (for example) uses stats from the english Premiership then wouldn’t it make sense that that offering be built in the UK? Better still engage someone else to build it, I’m sure my bosses at Conchango would be more than willing to be involved.
So there you have it; vertical offerings are where Windows Live is headed. You heard it here first and who knows, my wild predictions might turn out to be right for once!