Microsoft touts final release of Windows Live

Microsoft is pushing the full release of its Windows Live offerings with a marketing campaign.

Microsoft's Windows Live services and applications will officially emerge from beta this week, and the company is planning a marketing campaign for its online properties that it expects to reach an audience of 10 billion on the Web over the next two months.

For the first time, users will be able to access and download all available Windows Live services from the Windows Live dashboard online, said Brian Hall, general manager of the Windows Live business group at Microsoft. Previously, users would have to search the Web for specific product betas, which was a calculated move by the company, he said.

"We were not trying to get massive adoption," he said. "We were waiting until we were ready to cross-promote [the offerings]."

To accompany the full release, Microsoft will begin advertising and marketing Windows Live across its Web properties. The company expects 10 billion impressions for the campaign in the next two months, Hall said.

Windows Live is the brand name for a set of Web-based services and applications Microsoft hopes will allow it to sell online advertising to compete with Google, which is raking in advertising dollars at an alarming rate. Sources close to the company said that while Microsoft is not worried about its own profitability in the near term, it fears Google's ability to monetize online services through advertising. It is trying to future-proof its own Web business to avoid losing any more ground to the search giant, they said.

Microsoft divides its Windows Live offerings into two sets -- online services such as Windows Live Hotmail, and applications that users install on their PCs, such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Photo Gallery. A complete list of offerings that are available in full release now can be found on the Windows Live home page.

Not all the products that had been in beta are in full release, however, Hall said. Two services will remain in beta and will be released in final versions at a later date, he said. Those are Windows Live Skydrive, an online file-storage service, and Windows Live Calendar. "They'll be ready when we feel like the quality and scale is there," he said.

Microsoft will continue to release new Windows Live services in beta form over the next year as it does quarterly updates to its current round of services. The company will do another major release of services when a new wave is ready, Hall said.

Microsoft's marketing push around Windows Live is based on linking the offerings to the Windows Vista OS. In fact, on a Web site dedicated to the campaign, Microsoft dares users to "Open up your digital life" with "Windows Vista + Windows Live."

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it aims to leverage its most popular and far-reaching product, the Windows OS, to promote the company's online strategy. In fact, in September, Microsoft made available an installer for Windows Live that will automatically update any Windows Live services or applications that users have on their PCs through Windows XP or Vista.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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