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Software vision ain't what it used to be at Microsoft

Not .NET

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It was meant to usher in a new era for Microsoft. Bill Gates, along with recently appointed CTO Ray Ozzie and an entourage of lesser-known vice presidents pitched presentations and demos to press and analysts in San Francisco, California, to convince them Microsoft has a vision for "software as a service".

True to Microsoft style, the company will not be using the accepted industry name of "software as a service" but has coined its own moniker - "live software".

That's where the creative genius ran out, though. What was wheeled out was chiefly a response to Google's speeding revenue juggernaut. Live software wraps up much contemporary thinking but lacks the incisive vision found in .NET five years ago that attracted millions of developers and helped shape an industry.

Gates defined live software as software that remembers the users' preferences with services delivered to multiple devices - PCs, phones, cars or what ever. Those services are hosted and can be used in a federated, peer-to-peer network.

Live software is pure Web 2.0 pop culture. It's based on a well-established "service in the cloud" architecture that fuses - and confuses - things already in the market - from IM, social networking, downloadable music services and blogs to hosted email, business intelligence and customer relationship management (CRM) services.

The first implementations of live software are Windows Live and Office Live. Windows Live is a refreshed version of MSN with services like Hotmail updated to use Asynchronous Java Script and XML (AJAX) and feature an improved, almost Google-like, search and interface layer, and the ability to link to, and expose, profiles of buddies on your IM list as if you were using LinkedIn.

Office Live, for businesses with less than 10 staff, wraps-up hosting and design for web sites, and provides hosted email, collaboration, basic CRM and business intelligence. Integration across all of these is a feature. with small businesses, for example, able to export contacts in its CRM to an Exchange email list.

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Live software demonstrates less technical vision - a lot less than laid out for .NET - and has more focus on new business models and ways for Microsoft to make money online. Gates and Ozzie on Tuesday intoned a fervent belief in ad- and subscription-based revenue for live software. The engine for that new business is adCenter, due next year and currently in testing in France and Singapore.

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