After a longer break, the summer edition of the series “Windows Live and You” is finally back. Today I will be talking with Lance Manasse, who lives in the United Kingdom and is also known by his nickname “Salem”.
mynetx: Please tell me a bit about yourself. Is your life directly or indirectly involved with Windows Live?
Lance: I go by the name of Salem. I’m 22 right now, originally from South Africa (the country, not Southern Africa); however I am currently residing in the Cambridgeshire in the UK. My life doesn’t directly involve Windows Live actually—in fact, I consider myself rather new to the whole MSN/Windows Live community.
mynetx: New? Since when are you in the Live business? Tell me a bit about your history with it…
Lance: Okay, maybe not “New”; I just see myself as new to the whole community when I compare how long some people have been involved. I first started using MSN software in 2003 when I first moved to the UK from South Africa. As can be expected, the first MSN software application I used was MSN Messenger, that’s when I first became a regular user at least. I tried a couple of times before that back in South Africa to chat to my relatives in the UK, but due to terrible internet access (high cost and unreliable) I was only ever able to sign-in twice. (OK, maybe it wasn’t a South Africa-wide internet issue, maybe just our budget ISP. [laughes])
But yeah, I really got into it in 2003. Don’t ask me what version I used, I can’t remember if it was MSN Messenger 6.2 or 6.5, but somewhere around there. I applied to take part in MSN Messenger Beta testing (thinking I’d never get in) back in, I think, 2004. To my surprise, I got in…
mynetx: Do you think the Windows Live team cares for their users’ demands? Why?
Lance: I think people (Messenger users) can be very demanding. Well, Windows Live users can, too; but I’m saying Messenger users as it is by far the most used Windows Live product. Users can be very demanding: wanting things, and expecting to get a feature, just because they ask for it. Yet again, it can be kind of frustrating when specific suggestions/demands get made over and over and over again, and they are just dismissed by the developers.
I think it is easy for the casual users to demand things and not fully understanding the behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done to satisfy that demand.
mynetx: What might be the motivation behind dismissing user’s suggestions, especially when they are made really frequently (example: tabs)?
Lance: Haha, yes, tabs was one of the suggestions I was thinking about. I honestly don’t know, but I think the most likely reason would be, as I mentioned before, the scale of the work involved in getting it to work. However, considering that even a third-party developer (like Patchou) can get it working well enough in an add-on, surely Microsoft can get it working in their own software.
mynetx: Well, the Messenger Plus! creator, Patchou, is just one person and is able to implement it…
Lance: Yes, it is certainly possible. I think of the most frequent suggestions, tabs would be one of the easiest to reliably implement (compared to something like polygamy, the ability to sign-in to multiple accounts from one client).
mynetx: Use your fantasy: how do you think Messenger will look like within the next five years? What new features could it present?
mynetx: Like in the Twitter desktop client “blu”, you mean?
Lance: I have not heard of blu myself, will need to look it up!
Lance: I just mean, Messenger needs a total visual overhaul. I like the different look they introduced in the first beta of the renamed Messenger (from MSN to Windows Live), the orange one. I think many people complained at first about it because it was so “different” (people don’t like changes) so Microsoft reverted back to a GUI similar to previous versions.
mynetx: Wasn’t Wave 3 (2009) visually overhauled enough?
Lance: Apart from the new colors etc., there is not that much difference in Windows Live Messenger from MSN Messenger 6.x. Maybe I’m wanting to much but: think of the visual overhaul from Windows 9x to Windows XP, XP to Vista, and Vista to Windows 7—big changes, not these minor “tweaks” we are getting.
mynetx: I see… Apart from the user interface, what new features could Messenger present in five years?
Lance: Well… I don’t know what it could have, but I do know some things I’d like to see. Among the top items on my wish list are (in no particular order):
- Official Polygamy Support — The ability to sign-in to multiple Messenger accounts from one Windows Live Messenger client, and have separate statuses/personal status messages/display names/display pictures for each account.
- Tabs (although this can be done in add-ons like Messenger Plus! Live, so not that important to me).
- Multi-party audio (or even better, video) chats.
- The ability to export your whole WLM Contact List including the structure (groups, categories, favorites etc.). It’s a real pain when you try and migrate to a new account, as you can now only export and import the contacts, you then have to manually re-sort them in the new account.
mynetx: True, I have recently experienced the need for that, when I changed my Live ID.
Lance: It has taken me 2 years to migrate to a new account for this very reason. I just cant resort/rearrange them all; it’s a pain.
Oh, and “Bring back the MSN video carousel in the UK”, lol.
mynetx: I have always wondered that the “Video Carousel” was in 8.5? *-)
Lance: We had it in the UK when it was introduced in Windows Live Messenger, but it did not last long. It is gone now…
In fact I don’t even know if it made it past WLM 8’s beta.
mynetx: Any bugs that need fixing?
Lance: Yes, here is a “bug” I want fixed: Try adding a Yahoo! contact to your contact list (a localized one, not Yahoo.com) as a buddy. Messenger changes it to Yahoo.com even though you enter the localized one (in my case, Yahoo.co.uk). Thus, you cant add Yahoo! Messenger users who have a localized Yahoo address to your contact list. I have requested this a number of times, still not fixed.
Suggestion No. 2: Get rid of the bloody roll-over flash ads in the contact list! (That’s not a “feature” though.)
mynetx: Interoperability with other IM networks is a great field to improve, in my opinion. Yahoo looks like “hacked” into Messenger, instead of implemented correctly…
Lance: Yes, they need to add support for other Chat / instant messaging clients / protocols: Facebook Chat (as they have a stake in Facebook), definitely Jabber support please. Jabber is an open protocol, so an agreement should not be needed. I could then dump Google Talk for chatting to my MXit contacts.
mynetx: A propos Yahoo, what is your opinion on the final deal to use the Bing engine on Yahoo! websites, after all those never-ending ramblings about a cooperation, search deal, whatsoever?
Lance: Well, Microsoft needs to do something especially in search/online advertising, as Google is way ahead in market share.
mynetx: How does Bing relate?
Lance: I have tried Bing a few times. It is definitely much better than MSN Search/Windows Live Search/Live Search (whatever the last time was, lol). It also seems to be improving Microsoft’s market share. Though, I am wondering if this is because people like it, or if people are just “trying it out” as it is new—only time will tell.
mynetx: Mentioning the word “Butterfly”, what comes into your mind?
Lance: A colorful insect that flies! ;)
mynetx: And adding “Windows Live…”?
Lance: Ahh, lol, I knew what you meant. ;)
mynetx: What comes into your mind? What was so special about this group of exclusive people?
Lance: The Windows Live Butterfly program/group goes way back to the MSN days (hence the groups name being “Butterfly”). It was a group of beta testers who have “excelled” in Beta testing Windows Live products. Participants of the group were chosen by Microsoft and in some cases by those who were already butterflies from testers of Windows Live (and previously MSN) products/services. The group had a private discussion “area” on the Microsoft newsgroups. That’s just one of the benefits of being a member of the group. You can think of it as something similar to the MVP program, although only for MSN/Windows Live products, and lower down the hierarchy.
mynetx: Did you like being a butterfly?
Lance: I certainly did enjoy most of my time being a butterfly. It was a really good experience, not only testing, but also socializing and getting to know those with similar interests as yourself. As with any “cyber-community”, the group had its ups and downs but generally it was a good experience. It’s a shame to see the community go!
I think also what made the community so good was the way main person who managed it as he really helped things out.
mynetx: Let’s bring out a toast on Eric Chen!
Lance: Haha indeed.
mynetx: Please provide two positive and negative comments about any outstanding Windows Live product.
Lance: Hm… I choose Windows Live Mail.
Positives: Contact list/Address book synchronized with Live Messenger—that is my main reason for choosing it over other applications.
Negative: Slow (!), especially in IMAP mail downloading; furthermore it can only synchronize/use Contact list of one Windows Live ID even if you add a different Windows Live ID as account to Live Mail.
— Look how easy it was to think of negatives, and how hard it was to think of positives: it makes Live Mail not look good at all…
mynetx: OK, thanks for these.
Let’s talk a bit about your personal customs. Do you run Windows Live Messenger 24/7? Do you have some kind of a routine with Messenger and the other parts of Windows Live?
Lance: Yes, Windows Live Messenger is on 24/7—as long a PC is on it is running and signed in. Routine? Not really. I usually check if any people I chat to often are online (Messenger Plus! Live Desktop Contacts), see if I want to talk to them. I may then open Live Mail, but as it doesn’t auto-run on startup/login nor auto-run in system tray, I have to do this manually, so I often forget. However, as these are the Windows Live applications I use most, that is usually the order I would do things.
mynetx: Comparing your ideas we talked about before (like UI enhancements, tabs, multiple accounts per endpoint, more IM networks, etc), with Messenger’s current features, which of these might be added in the next release, Wave 4?
Lance: I think more IM network interoperability may be the most likely, especially as we heard rumblings about it for this version (although unconfirmed). Like I said also, Jabber could come as it is an open standard and wouldn’t need any agreements (as with other IMs like AIM).
I’d say UI change is next—but not likely. (Again, by UI change I mean a big change, not minor tweaks/changes.) Tabs would be next, and polygamy last, as I foresee this to be more work.
mynetx: Are you satisfied with the Windows Live services that are provided to you? Why?
Lance: Mostly yes. They just satisfy my communications needs, whether it be IM, social networking or e-mail. They are things I think that can be worked on (as mentioned earlier); but yes, overall I am satisfied.
mynetx: Will Windows Live be able to fill the position as overall Windows (and Office) add-on, especially when looking at Windows 7?
Lance: I think so, it is a good suite of applications for the average computer user. I think it would be better to be just integrated with Windows, but the European Union will not be happy.
mynetx: Windows Live and Office Live, along with cloud power in behind—is this the solution? Better than legacy software?
Lance: That depends on the market, in my opinion. In markets where a decent (that is, broadband) Internet connection is easily available/accessible, it is good; but otherwise it isn’t, no. I think people in Europe/the US forget about computer users in places without broadband Internet connections, not to mention those with no Internet at all.
mynetx: So, is the gap between industry lands (high-tech nations) and economically less strong areas increasing?
Lance: I don’t know whether it is increasing, but I don’t think it’s getting smaller. Take my home country for example, South Africa. Broadband Internet (ADSL) access has only become available to the general public (that is, not business) in the last 3-4 years. Here though (in the UK), it was already very common. Now, in South Africa citizens can get a broadband connection, but at a price: for example, they pay the ISP and phone line (as we do), but they also pay a charge for the phone line to be used for broadband/ADSL. So it costs at least three times as much there, plus they still have ridiculous caps/quotas making only basic net usage possible; whereas here, we are using it for much more. Just imagine cloud computing in places like that…
mynetx: To summarize: using cloud web applications is problematic for regions where no broadband web access is available.
Lance: Exactly! I’m all for it, but I wouldn’t want everything to go “to the cloud” soon as it will leave such nations behind.
mynetx: What is your favorite feature in Messenger?
Lance: Video chat is got to be.
Lance: Being someone that lives in a different country than family and friends he grew up with, it’s good to be able to see and hear them.
mynetx: What was your first impression of Live Mesh? Could it be a new diverse method of file sharing among peers, or could it improve the current system at hand?
Lance: I loved it as soon as I tried it, and I am using it all the time now. It is what Windows Live Messenger Sharing Folders should have been. Well, apparently Mesh is intended to be more than just a file sharing service. I’m yet to see the others though, but it makes file sharing/synchronization available to the masses, for free.
mynetx: We can expect some Mesh love in Windows Live Wave 4, as it will play an important role in the upcoming “Windows Live Devices” service. How could it be connected tighter with the other services? What might we see?
Lance: No idea actually; though, I am excited and looking forward to see what they have planned.
mynetx: Me too. I will tell you as soon as I know more details…
Lance: It looks like Wave 4 will be a better release than Wave 3 (I honestly wasn’t happy with Wave 3 at all.)
mynetx: What was wrong or missing in Wave 3, the 2008-2009 release of Windows Live?
Lance: The beta ran extremely long to me—too long for what we saw as changes. Sure, Movie Maker joined Windows Live; but apart from that and minor visual changes, there wasn’t much. I don’t know, maybe I just expected too much.
mynetx: Do you wish Messenger would have a feature that a third-party IM software already has?
Lance: Well, I don’t use any other IM apps (apart from Google Talk, which is crap considering its features; the only reason I use it is for communicating with MXit people), so I don’t really know what other IM applications offer.
mynetx: Ahh, so you are a loyal Windows Live user?
Lance: (laughes) Not loyal; there is just no real need to use anything else. Most of my contacts are on WLM or Skype, but Skype doesn’t offer anything different that I want in Messenger.
mynetx: As Messenger user, I’m sure you’ve got a good tip that not everybody might know about yet—any tweak, counsel, suggestion, whatever comes into your mind.
Lance: One good tip is allowing two WLM instances to run at the same time. It is a registry setting that needs modifying; the only thing is it won’t auto sign-in to a second account (Live ID). [Read more about this tip soon.]
mynetx: How would you summarize your overall experience with Windows Live in a brief sentence?
Lance: Windows Live services help me keep in touch and share my views/stories.
mynetx: Lance, I found it very interesting to talk with you about all of this!
Lance: I enjoyed it too; thanks for thinking of me as some to interview and for taking the time to do so.
Thanks to thirteen23 labs, Alto Voltaje Design, Bram Vandeperre, Messenger Stuff, BuddyFuse and LiveSino for the images.