In another sign that the current economic environment is taking its toll on everyone, including behemoth corporations, Microsoft has made a major structural change to its Live Labs group by moving about half of the Live staff into other product groups. Before anyone starts wondering where these people will go for jobs, not to fear; apparently, most of the people being reorganized out of the Live group are being assigned to other product groups to help accelerate product development in those groups.
I’m a little disappointed that Microsoft has chosen to trim the Live group as I actually like quite a bit of what is coming from that group. It feels sort of like how network executives handle TV scheduling… they keep moving the really good shows (Journeyman, for example) around until they die a slow death (Firefly, for example) because no one can figure out where they are anymore (Wonderfalls, for example). Oftentimes, just as things are starting to get interesting, the show is cut because it didn’t get traction quickly enough… but did the show not get traction because it wasn’t that good or because the network didn’t really give it a chance? In this case, I also wonder if Microsoft ever really knew what it wanted to achieve with some of the Live projects.
Given Google’s powerhouse status with regard to web applications and with many people considering Microsoft the “legacy” player in the game, Microsoft does have an uphill battle to face when it comes to getting real traction on the product that are being developed through Live Labs. Initial editions of the software leave a bit to be desired, but the stuff coming out recently has been really good. For example, I’ve recently become a big fan of the Windows Live Mail client. I’ve also discovered Windows Live Favorites, a service that synchronizes my Internet Explorer Favorites between all of the computers that I use. There are a lot more Live services out there as well. Over time, I imagine that many Live products would have gained a lot of traction as enterprises continue to look for ways to do things simpler and cheaper.
Microsoft will be narrowing the focus of the three year old and now-smaller Live group on “web experiences” and will bury some existing Live projects.