excellent analysis of Microsoft's Windows Live brand. Her conclusions are quite damning of Microsoft's marketing department:Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet has done an
"Problem No. 1: Live isn't a consistently applied term: Sometimes it refers to services (like Windows Live Messenger), sometimes to desktop applications (a k a Windows Live Search Preview), and sometimes to "destinations" (such as Windows Live Gallery).
Then, there's the whole branding/rebranding
messchallenge. As quickly as Microsoft fields a new Live beta, it renames it. Is it MSN Hotmail, Windows Live Mail or Windows Live Hotmail? Windows Search 4, Windows Live Search Center, OneView or Windows Live Search Preview? (Yep, those are all codenames for one thing.) There also are the ungainly names, such as "Windows Live Search for Windows Mobile."
(I'm not even going to touch on the fact that the term "Live" is being applied inconsistently across Microsoft product groups. Xbox Live, Office Live, Dynamics CRM Live and Windows Live have next-to-nothing in common. Why is that?)"
Also see the LiveSide blog for a comprehensive list of Windows Live services.
What's really confusing me, is why hasn't Microsoft fixed this yet? I wrote about the brand confusion over Windows Live over a year ago. At the time the theory was that Live = services; MSN = content. But there are too many overlaps between services and content in this Web era for that to be convincing. So what is the situation one year later....
Here is how Windows Live is currently described on the Ideas homepage:
"Your online world gets better when everything works simply and effortlessly together. That's the basic idea behind Windows Live."
It's explained in more detail on this page:
"Windows Live™ is a new set of Internet software and services designed to work together seamlessly to put you in control of the information, personal connections, and interests you care about."
Here is the visual explanation:
In a nutshell then, Windows Live is any Microsoft product or service which requires an Internet connection. Which is just about everything these days.
And that's the problem - with almost all consumer (and increasingly enterprise) software and services having an online component nowadays, it's a very broad a set of products to bring under one umbrella term. But perhaps that's more a reflection of how broad a business Microsoft is circa 2007.
I think Windows Live is a good enough brand, signifying Microsoft's set of Internet-connected software and services. But right now the name is being applied inconsistently and is also leading to unwieldy brand names (Windows Live for Windows Mobile being the latest example). In the final analysis, that old Web app adage applies: keep it simple! Both with product names and the overall message, that Live = Internet-connected.