Windows Live and You: “Completing the idea of staying in touch” (Harrison Hoffman, Microsoft)

It has been quite a while since my last interview in this series. In recent times, things have progressed a lot, considering Windows Live Wave 4, for example. The boost of social networks is still unbroken, too.

Harrison HoffmanMy guest for today is Harrison Hoffman. As Evangelism Product Manager at Microsoft, he likes Windows Live a lot. Why not take a seat and listen to his thoughts?

Klaus: Harrison, it is a pleasure for me to have you here talking with me about you and your relation to Windows Live!

Harrison: Hi Klaus, I’m excited to have the opportunity!

Klaus: Let’s start right away with the first question.
Which sentence would describe you best?

Harrison: In terms of my job at Microsoft, I would say that I am focused on helping people discover all of the amazing things that you can do with Windows Live, as well as trying to make sure that our products reflect what people want. Outside of my job, I would say that I am a recent college grad, living in Seattle, who loves music, traveling, and Chicago sports.

Klaus: You were one of the co-founders of, a news site talking about Windows Live. What motivated you to engage in this, back in January 2006?

Harrison: Prior to January, 2006, I was involved with beta testing for a variety of Microsoft products, which included various MSN products. I got to know a few other beta testers pretty well, so when we saw Microsoft starting to roll out this rebranding and new set of products called Windows Live, we saw a great opportunity to get out in front of it and provide information on it. So, in January, myself, Chris Overd, and Matthew Weyer started LiveSide, with Kip Kniskern (the current Managing Editor) joining just a few days after we launched.

Klaus: Would you have imagined Windows Live to become one of the main Microsoft products for Windows? Why so?

Harrison: I definitely knew that Microsoft had something special on their hands with Windows Live and that’s why I decided to do LiveSide at that time. From the outside, it was really obvious that there was a lot of momentum building internally around the new set of products, so I had a lot of faith in it. Even back then, when we were seeing some of the concepts for what we now call PC + Cloud services, you could tell that there was a lot of potential there.

Klaus: When you first got the chance to use Windows Live Messenger, what did you think?

MSN Messenger 6Harrison: The first time that I used Messenger was back when it was still called MSN Messenger (version 6 I think). Since it wasn’t really popular in the U.S. then, my initial impression was, “Why don’t more of my friends use this? This product is clearly better than what AIM is bringing to the table.” My impression was that it was a really solid product, with a very useful feature set.

Klaus: Now, after moving your viewpoint from outside to inside MS, how did this affect your relation to Windows Live? Does it make you feel differently?

Harrison: It’s obviously different being on the inside than the outside, when looking at Windows Live, but I can’t say that my opinions have changed greatly. I still stand by what I have always thought about the set of products. When you use all of the Windows Live products together, they provide a value that is greater than what any other company offers. This is truly a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Klaus: Most folks are starting to accommodate with Windows Live 2011 (Wave 4). What do you like most in it?

Harrison: I think that we have a really strong set of products across the board, but if I had to pick one thing, it would probably be Facial Recognition/People Tags in Photo Gallery, combined with the Upload to Facebook feature. The fact that you can take your photos off of your camera after a party, have Photo Gallery import and organize them, as well as recognize your friends for batch tagging, and then upload them to Facebook with the tags is amazing. I think that it is a hugely powerful scenario and one that I personally find very useful. This process is so simple, especially in contrast to the painful experience of tagging photos one by one, person by person on Facebook’s site.

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Klaus: Over the past 2 years, focus has drifted away from Instant Messaging, towards Social Networking. How might this trend continue? Will Messenger eventually become super fluent?

Harrison: I wouldn’t really say that we have drifted away from Instant Messaging because we still think that IM is hugely important and that a lot of people love chatting with their friends, but we have definitely placed an additional focus on social content in Messenger 2011. It’s really about completing the idea of staying in touch with the people that you care about and today, sites like Facebook are a big part of that. I’m not sure that I see Messenger becoming superfluous in the near future, but I think that it is safe to say that it will continue to evolve, as every product does.

Klaus: What is your biggest wish for Windows Live Wave 5—and will it come true?

Harrison: As far as the future goes, I am a big fan of the web, especially the social aspects of it. It’s a very fast moving space with a lot of exciting possibilities, so I would like to see Windows Live continue to work with more web services to build in deep integration, like we’ve done with Active Views in Hotmail or Facebook in Photo Gallery/Movie Maker and Messenger. That’s the kind of stuff that really shines for me. As for whether that will come true, I guess we’re going to have to wait and see! 🙂

Klaus: We’re looking forward to it! I appreciate you took the time to talk with me about what you think about Windows Live. =)

Harrison: Thanks for having me Klaus!

If you’re interested in checking out what Harrison is doing with Windows Live, you can follow him on Twitter: @harrisonhoffman.