What’s the site where you get Windows Live news first? — Probably your answer is “LiveSide”, and that has its reason. I had an interesting discussion with Kip Kniskern, who is one of the authors at LiveSide.net.
mynetx: Please tell me a bit about yourself. Is your life directly or indirectly involved with Windows Live?
Kip: I’ve been writing for LiveSide for almost 3 ½ years, since it started in Jan. 2006. Before that I was a beta tester for MSN and Microsoft products, was an original “MSN Butterfly”, and a 3 time MVP for MSN and Windows Live.
I use Windows Live products daily, mostly mail and messenger, and of course Windows Live Writer.
mynetx: Do you think the Windows Live team cares for their users’ demands? Why?
Kip: I think they are as responsive as you can be when your customer base is in the hundreds of millions of users. In some respects that many users makes it more difficult to make changes, as they affect so many people in so many different ways. I do think that Windows Live could do more to be a more agile team. Both the structure of Microsoft and the sheer numbers of users contribute to… make it very difficult to react quickly to market trends.
mynetx: Like a big vehicle is slow in turning around, unlike a small car?
Kip: yes exactly. Steven Sinofsky, Senior Vice President for Windows and Windows Live Engineering, is often said to “make the trains run on time”. Problem is, when everyone has cars and has already left, waiting for the next train, even if it is on schedule, might not matter.
mynetx: Though I think that Microsoft has had its big awakening sometime 2 years ago.
Suddenly Internet Explorer development was “restarted”, and the overall Corporate Identity was renewed, and I think this has also had consequences on Windows Live.
Kip: Yes. Ray Ozzie is working hard to change the culture, but Windows Live is still to slow to react sometimes. That being said, I use Windows Live products every day, and generally like them a lot.
mynetx: If Microsoft took over Facebook, would you be using it then?
Kip: I don’t see why not. I have no problem using Microsoft products.
mynetx: How do you think Yahoo!’s future would have been affected, if the Big Deal would have happened last summer?
Kip: If anything, Yahoo! had an even worse culture for quick reaction than did Microsoft. I think the combined market share would have shaken up the market a bit, but just getting the two companies to work together as one would have been a monumental task, and I think it would have caused a lot of problems.
The new CEO at Yahoo!, Carol Bartz, is working to change their culture too.
mynetx: Within the next five years, where could you picture Windows Live?
Kip: Windows Live is going to benefit from its relationship to Windows 7. But in 5 years I doubt that there will be so much emphasis on which platform you use: are you in the MSFT camp, the Apple camp, the Google camp, etc. Within 5 years the barriers to communicating with some one because you don’t have the same Messenger client should be gone.
Kip: Mobile will be much more prevalent; smartphones, data access on phones, etc. Just like now how ridiculous it would be if a Nokia phone couldn’t call an iPhone, it will be much easier to communicate between devices than it is now.
mynetx: Please provide two positive and negative comments about any outstanding Windows Live product.
Kip: Windows Live Mail is a great product, I think. I currently have 9 email accounts loaded, including non-Hotmail accounts and even a Gmail account. It loads them all quickly, presents them handsomely, and handles calendar, contacts, and newsgroups. I struggled before with trying to get Outlook to handle multiple Hotmail accounts (although the new Outlook Connector is better), but now I don’t worry about it.
As for a negative, while I understand the thinking behind Windows Live Essentials, I think tying the updates of all the Windows Live products together was a big mistake. In the last Messenger upgrade, in order to fix a small but somewhat important bug, users had to go through the whole Essentials installer “experience”. It sucked, and it’s stopping some Windows Live products from getting updates they need because of having to update everything at once.
mynetx: 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?
Kip: Messenger is on when my computer is on, yes. I have the main messenger window open all the time, positioned as a right hand sidebar (where the Vista sidebar would be, which is the first thing I turn off when I set up a computer). Messenger auto loads when the computer is turned on.
mynetx: You don’t like Sidebar?
Kip: no 😛
mynetx: Use your fantasy: how do you think Messenger will look like within the next five years? What new features could it present?
Kip: Well hopefully a much better interface for multiple conversations (tabs!). Also I would like to see the user interface around contacts improve: a better interface than a contact list that you have to scroll down to find someone, click on it, open a window to start a conversation, etc. And you should be able to start conversations with people not in your contact list, in some public areas… similar to what you can do in Twitter now, or even in the new Messenger web toolkit.
I expect that Messenger in general will get to be more phone-like, and phones will get to be more Messenger-like.
mynetx: Comparing these ideas with Messenger’s current features, which of these might be added in the next release, Wave 4?
Kip: I think we’ll see some improvements in Contacts. Somehow I doubt we’ll see tabs, although I could be wrong. Msgr users have been calling for tabs for years without success. Mostly I think you’ll see Messenger and the other Windows Live desktop apps continue to work toward sharing a common interface, and to share common parts.
mynetx: Why is the Windows Live team just ignoring the loud shout for tabs that tons of Messenger users shout since years?
Kip: I wish I knew, but I don’t.
mynetx: Are you satisfied with the Windows Live services that are provided to you?
Kip: Yes. I use multiple Live ID accounts (to separate the work I do on LiveSide from my personal stuff), and it is very easy to manage now. We use Custom Domains for our LiveSide accounts, and it’s great. I really like Windows Live Mail, and Live Writer. Of course I think there could be improvements, but overall I’m happy.
mynetx: What is your favorite feature in Messenger?
Kip: I will tell you about one feature I really miss, and that is the Live Maps activity. It was very useful to be able to share maps, to plan meetings etc. MSN China has recently re-released a version of it in China, so hopefully we’ll see it again.
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?
Kip: I use Live Mesh daily also. I think you will see Live Mesh integrated into Windows Live, and the plan is to introduce some of that in Wave 4. Could Live Mesh become a sort of torrent? I don’t know about that, I think that architecturally maybe it could, but I doubt that Microsoft would allow it to be used as a free form file share.
mynetx: Do you wish Messenger would have a feature that a third-party IM software already has? Besides tabs, that is.
Kip: I don’t use other clients much if at all, so I’m not one to comment.
mynetx: However, as Messenger user, I’m sure you’ve got a good tip that not everybody might know about yet.
Kip: Lol, to me Messenger is like the phone, I don’t think about it much, I just use it. I sure hope photo sharing is improved in Wave 4 though, I find the new way to share photos very cumbersome.
mynetx: And finally, are you working on any project related to Windows Live currently?
Kip: Well we are hoping to be able to integrate the Messenger toolkit into LiveSide. I am not a developer, but we have someone working on it for his site (also Community Server), and we will be working together to see if we can make it happen. Unfortunately Community Server is kind of complicated, and we want the experience for our readers to be a good one, so it’s going kind of slow at the moment.
mynetx: Who works at LiveSide?
Kip: LiveSide is run by myself, Chris Overd, and Harrison Hoffman. We get regular contributions from Sunshine (Cornelia Koopmans), and have a few other contributors as well.
mynetx: LiveSide is a very good news source when you want to be on top of the latest developments and Windows Live news. I want to thank you and the other contributors for the great amount of time, knowledge and research that you put into the site each day, regardless of vacations, making LiveSide what it is today—a must-read! 😀
Is it the same fun for you people running the site as it is for us reading it?
Kip: Yes we have a lot of fun with it 🙂
mynetx: I hope the site will continue to do its best to inform us about anything interesting in the Windows Live world. Great that you took your time to discuss “Windows Live and You” with me!
Kip: Happy to do it! 🙂