Microsoft is actually making some real headway in the way it is developing and distributing services, but almost no one knows it, thanks to the abysmal job the company has done in defining Live and updating the various Microsoft constituencies on its progress.See also my previous posts, " Is it Windows Live, MSN, or Microsoft?", "Is it Live or MSN?", and "Office Live is not Office Live?".
"Live" is Microsoft shorthand for services. Windows Live is not, as many still assume, a new, hosted version of Windows; it is the set of services extensions to Windows. The same is true of Office Live. (Confusingly, however, CRM Live is a hosted version of Microsoft CRM.)
There's ... been mass confusion ... about exactly what Live is and how Microsoft's Live strategy hangs together ... Analyst Matt Rosoff [said], "It seems like end-users who don't particularly follow Microsoft have never heard of Live or confuse it with the next version of Windows, and customers, partners, and advertisers often express puzzlement over the difference between Windows Live, Live (e.g., Live Search), and MSN."
Microsoft has used "Live" to mean several different things, Rosoff added. "We ... view Windows Live as ... essentially the latest chapter in the long story of MSN. But sometimes the Live brand is also used to describe broader concepts, such as software being delivered as a service or subscription-based models for buying software. I don't think the brand has been as misused as .Net was a few years back, but it's still fairly indistinct."
Update: Three months later, after a disappointing quarterly report, Gartner analyst David Smith says, "Microsoft's Live branding has been tremendously confusing and has hurt the company, and it is very likely contributing to the situation they are in right now. They've created another brand and have not differentiated it." [Found on Findory]
Update: Three months later, Mary Jo Foley makes a Herculean effort to understand how the Live brand is used and writes, "After going out and searching for information on all the Live services I could find, I feel like I'm even more confused about what Windows Live is (and isn't) than I was before."