December 12, 2006
@ 02:29 AM

I've had a number of people mention the article about Steve Berkowitz and MSN/Windows Live in the New York Times entitled Looking for a Gambit to Win at Google's Game which contains a bunch of choice negative quotes about our products supposedly from Steve Berkowitz. The article starts of without pulling punches as you can see from the following excerpt

The pressure is on for Mr. Berkowitz to gain control of Microsoft’s online unit, which by most measures has drifted dangerously off course. Over the last year, its online properties have lost users in the United States. The billions of dollars the company has spent building its own search engine have yet to pay off. And amid a booming Internet market, Microsoft’s online unit is losing money.

Google, meanwhile, is growing, prospering, and moving increasingly onto Microsoft’s turf.

Microsoft lost its way, Mr. Berkowitz says, because it became too enamored with software wizardry, like its new three-dimensional map service, and failed to make a search engine people liked to use.

A lot of decisions were driven by technology; they were not driven by the consumer,” he said. “It isn’t always the best technology that wins. It is the best experience.”
Mr. Berkowitz does not defend the brand choice he inherited.

“I don’t know if Live is the right name,” he said, saying he had not decided what to do about it. But before he gets around to deciding whether to change the brand, he wants to make Microsoft’s search engine itself more appealing to consumers.

What he did decide was to keep the MSN name afloat, too, as it is well known and its various services have 430 million users around the world. He promoted Joanne K. Bradford, Microsoft’s head of advertising sales, to oversee and revive the MSN portal.

Definitely some harsh words attributed to our corporate VP which has led some Windows Live watchers to wonder whether the brand is going to be tossed. I'm going to ignore the obvious flame bait of seeing an article claiming that one of our corporate vice presidents criticized what is probably the only best of breed online service we provide (i.e. and just focus on an implicit yet incorrect assumption carried throughout the article. The assumption is that Steve Berkowitz runs Windows Live.

I've commented on our org chart before but here is a refresher course for the reporters and bloggers out there that feel compelled to write about Windows Live and MSN. If you go back to the press release after our last major reorg Microsoft Realigns Platforms & Services Division for Greater Growth and Agility you'll notice that it beaks out Microsoft's internet business into the following three pieces

Windows and Windows Live Group
With Sinofsky in charge, the Windows and Windows Live Group will have engineering teams focused on delivering Windows and engineering teams focused on delivering the Windows Live experiences. Sinofsky will work closely with Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie and Blake Irving to support Microsoft’s services strategy across the division and company.
Windows Live Platform Group
Blake Irving will lead the newly formed Windows Live Platform Group, which unites a number of MSN teams that have been building platform services and capabilities for Microsoft’s online offerings. This group provides the back-end infrastructure services, platform capabilities and global operational support for services being created in Windows Live, Office Live, and other Microsoft and third-party applications that use the Live platform. This includes the advertising and monetization platforms that support all Live service offerings.
Online Business Group
The new Online Business Group includes advertising sales, business development and marketing for Live Platforms, Windows Live and MSN — including, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access. David Cole, senior vice president, will lead this group until his successor is named before his leave of absence at the end of April. [Dare - Steve Berkowitz is the replacement]

As you can see from the above press release you'll note that Steve Berkowitz owns the sales, marketing and business aspects of Windows Live but not the products themselves. Steven Sinofsky and his subordinates, specifically Chris Jones and Christopher Payne, are responsible for Windows Live. Although Steve Berkowitz is probably the right guy to talk to about the marketing and branding of Windows Live, he probably isn't the right person to talk to about the future of Windows Live products like search (holla at Christopher Payne) or email/IM/blogging (talk to Chris Jones).

I find it interesting to see articles like NY Times: Will Berkowitz keep Windows Live? because I think although things are confusing now with two poorly differentiated and overlapping brands, it would send out the wrong signal to the the market, our competitors and our customers if we decided to go back to the MSN brand for all our online services. What do you think?