Disclaimer: This is my opinion. It does not reflect the intentions, strategies, plans or stated goals of my employer

Ever since the last Microsoft reorg where it's Web products were spread out across 3 Vice Presidents I've puzzled about why the company would want to fragment its product direction in such a competitive space instead of having a single person responsible for its online strategy.

Today, I was reading an interview with Chris Jones, the corporate vice president of Windows Live Experience Program Management entitled Windows Live Moves Into Next Phase with Renewed Focus on Software + Services and a lightbulb went off in my head. The relevant bits are excerpted below

PressPass: What else is Microsoft announcing today?

Jones: Today we’re also releasing a couple of exciting new services from Windows Live into managed beta testing: Windows Live Photo Gallery beta and Windows Live Folders beta.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is an upgrade to Windows Vista’s Windows Photo Gallery, offered at no charge, and enables both Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2 customers to share, edit, organize and print photos and digital home videos... We’re also releasing Windows Live Folders into managed beta today, which will provide customers with 500 megabytes of online storage at no charge.
We’re excited about these services and we see today’s releases as yet another important step on the path toward the next generation of Windows Live, building on top of the momentum of other interesting beta releases we’ve shared recently such as Windows Live Mail beta, Windows Live Messenger beta and Windows Live Writer beta....soon we’ll begin to offer a single installer which will give customers the option of an all-in-one download for the full Windows Live suite of services instead of the separate installation experience you see today. It’s going to be an exciting area to watch, and there’s a lot more to come.

PressPass: You talk a lot about a “software plus services” strategy. What does that mean and how does it apply to what you’re talking about today?

Jones: It’s become a buzz word of sorts in the industry, but it’s a strategy we truly believe in. The fact that we’re committed to delivering software plus services means we’re focused on building rich experiences on top of your Windows PC; services like those offered through Windows Live.

All the items in red font refer to Windows desktop applications in one way or the other. At this point it now made sense to me why there were three VPs running different bits of Microsoft's online products and why one of them was also the VP that owned Windows. The last reorg seems to have divided Microsoft's major tasks in the online space across the various VPs in the following manner

  • Satya Nadella: Running the search + search ads business (i.e. primarily competing with Google search and AdWords)

  • Steve Berkowitz: Running the content + display ads business (i.e. primarily competing with Yahoo!'s content and display ad offerings)

  • Steven Sinofsky and Chris Jones: Adding value to the Windows platform using online services (i.e. building something similar to iLife + .Mac for Windows users). 

From that perspective, the reorgs make a lot more sense now. The goals and businesses are different enough that having people singularly focused on each of those tasks makes more sense than having one person worry about such disparate [and perhaps conflicting] goals. The interesting question to me is what does it mean for Microsoft's Web-based Windows Live properties like Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Favorites and Windows Live Spaces if Microsoft is going to be emphasizing the Windows in Windows Live? I guess we've already seen announcements some announcements from the mail side like Windows Live Mail and the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector now being free.

Another interesting question is where  Ray Ozzie fits in all this.