Live Dot Com Road Show London

17 May 2006

So, I was sent to the Microsoft Windows Live Road Show in London by my future boss, and invited by Kris from MSN BeLux. Microsoft paid for the trip and took care of hotel reservation and any travel expenses I’d have to make. Pretty awesome. Although it hasn’t been that long since I saw Phil Holden at the last road show in Brussels, I was eager to know what he’s been up to these last few weeks. He also brought Koji Kato, the man who codes faster than his shadow and apparently the Group Program Manager at Windows Live. Phil ‘borrowed’ Koji to bring him to London and do some Gadgets demos to show us what they’ve got up their sleeves.

I went to London by Eurostar, for the first time in my life I travelled business class and it was pretty WAW. So much service, free food, free drinks… I had to stop myself from enjoying it too much on the way there, so I wouldn’t arrive drunk or sick or something like that. Something some other folks in the same coach clearly saw no problem in. ;)
Anyways… I arrived in London a small hour before it started at the Zero 101 building in Peter Street. I was quite surprised to find out what kind of neighborhood it was. Let’s say there was a lot of neon light behind the windows. But I wasn’t there for sightseeing. I went straight to the school (yup, in the same street as the neon ‘drive-in’ stores) where it was all happening.

I met Darren Straight and Robert Gale who got there a bit early to interview Phil Holden. Nice people and very nice to meet them, really. Robert had a cool accent. Just like the one you hear in the movies. :) Then Kris from MSN arrived and a bit later Pieter from The Belgian Side was complete.
I also met someone from LiveSide and asked how they got all this info so quickly. Seems they’re pretty networked, and that’s about it. I had hoped for a greater story, but nope. Then the session started and we all sat down and listened to Phil as he explained the status of Windows Live today.

What I remember: At this thime there are about 17 Live services, and if you include the previous marks that adds up to about 20. The day before the session, on May 15th, M6 went live. (Milestone 6) LiveMail (or M6) has an improved performance and has some subtle but effective UI tweaks. At this time there are between 3 and 4 million users, but they’re going to add more invites, so the user number can grow and they can adjust the service in scale.

The Live Messenger has about 8 million users, but Messenger 7 and 7.5 have about 210 million, so that needs some more work. I’m currently trying the beta and I like what I see. There’s still some work to be done, but it’s getting close to what I look for in a chat client. I kicked out Trillian. Let’s see where this brings me. Recent changes in the Messenger are: the shorter login time (from an average 45 secs to about 20 secs), and some smaller issues I forgot.

Main idea is that still needs to improve in performance. Within 2 months there’s going to be a large performance upgrade which would make things a lot more easier to use, and above all: faster. Another big main idea is that they need to enable a decent 1st run experience, so that first time users can find their way more easily and have less to worry about. Also scheduled in the category ‘real soon’.

What’s also pretty impressive is the plans they have for a “Share Setup” mode, where you can export your settings (make it portable) and transfer it to other users so they can enjoy what you’ve been putting together. Incredibly handy if you’re the IT dude in the family and everybody keeps asking you how stuff works. Export, end questions, start fun. Easy as that. Close to this topic will be the appearance of sponsored pages where a news service or sports service introduces a sponsored page filled with content, like for example NBA or Sky. They would offer you a load of content, in exchange for that they’ll have some ads.

Last but not least in Phil’s intro was the demo of the new Live Local service where they’ve started to upgrade all footage with HQ images. In the US it’s already there, it’s going to be rolled out in the UK really soon, in the next few months the rest of Europe will follow. The images are waaaay clearer than those on Google’s Satellite view or Earth. Really. What I’ve seen was wicked to the third degree. I can’t wait to see that for Belgium. So closed-up (not street sight, but bird’s eye view) and so incredibly sharp. A subtle ‘wtf’ came out of some mouths while Phil showed some footage from the London Bridge. Amazing.

On a sidenote, but I don’t have the right URL yet, there’ll be a Greetings platform connected to and the Live Messenger which is linked to, I saw some footage from that. It’s nothing for me, but I can imagine it’ll be used a lot by most ‘regular’ Messenger users.

That concludes Phil’s first contribution. Then he introduced Koji Kato who showed us how to quickly make some gadgets for the dashboard. I’m not that good of a coder, but I could follow every step he did while creating gadgets ‘on the spot’. He showed off a page with a local map that had geotagged pictures on them. Kind of like Flickr has, but then with a Microsoft flavor. Koji created the page while we were watching, it only took him a couple of minutes to have the webpage ready. Nice moves.

Koji also showed off some nice code to search from within an app, but I don’t remember all of the context, so I’m not going to write more about it. If you’re into coding a little, check this out, I bet you can do some funky stuff with it as well. The coolest thing Koji pulled off was a custom search engine for his tablet PC which recognized his handwriting. Some simple coding, seconds of work for him and there it was. He wrote a few words, they were recognized immediately and then yielded search results. Selecting the words and moving them closer to the top of the field would change the priority of the keywords and caused the search results to change. Very nifty. I was really impressed.

Then it was back to Phil, after some food and drinks and some interviewing by the guys from, who organized this evening chat. Phil showed the Q&A of, which is currently still in limited beta. It’s a bit like Yahoo Answers, a community-based directory where you can post questions, answer questions from other people and vote on answers that have been posted by other users. In the Q&A you can tag your questions, and of course perform tag query searches. You can customize your experience in a ‘YourQ&A’ section, have a look at the Top Users and see how many kudos they’ve collected from the community, how many questions they’ve posted and answered… personal stats like that. Kudos cannot be traded for gift vouchers. We asked, but no, you can’t. I think they’ve got to add an incentive or something to motivate the participation of the users. It’s not so big yet, but imagine those millions of Messenger and Live Mail users joining in when it goes live … it has a huge potential.

Then came the top of the bill. The most revolutionary thing I’ve seen with Messenger for mobiles. Really, I was f*cking impressed. On his laptop, Phil logged in with account A, and on his mobile phone with account B. He initiated the Messenger, so far nothing new. Then he took a picture from the audience, and transferred it immediately through messenger to the account on the laptop. It took a few seconds (image size 25kb) and the image was transferred. He then recorded a voice clip on his mobile and that too was directly transferred. That takes away all the time you spend typing answers to your online buddies. You say it and send it. It can’t be easier than that. Video footage isn’t supported yet. A funny note: if you send a nudge from the laptop in the conversation with the phone, it vibrates :) heheheh.

Then the guys from introduced their piece of art. The AJaX RSS Hub (RSS Flux) which hasn’t got a real name yet and is supposed to be released officially somewhere after the summer. It’s a cool flexible RSS aggregator that fetches all the feeds you want it to fetch, but doesn’t capture the content. You can display the feed items by category, language or by site. I preview of how it works is live at, but it’s not really how it looks. It’s more or less an integration of the concept. One thing Kevin Briody (who was also in Brussels the last time) noted was that Microsoft didn’t want to aggregate the full content because that might piss off some bloggers (he didn’t say it in those words, but that was what he meant) so instead the articles are links to the site they came from, which could generate more traffic for the bloggers.

The last notes were vague mentions of subdomain portals which would be launched after the summer and about gadgets for that would have ‘random blogs’ and ‘community sites’ in them. Also that MSDN would become, which is going to be announced at TechEd if I recall it correctly. Windows Live News Groups is also somewhere in the pipeline, but again no release date has been set.

That concludes what I remember of the session. Afterwards we could have a little chat here and there and Phil proposed a lottery where 5 phones could be won by the participants of the event. Everybody wrote his name on a piece of paper and the lucky winners can expect a brand new ‘Messenger Phone’ like the one I wrote about in the previous write-up of the session in Brussels.

The session ended somewhere around 11.30 PM and Kris, Pieter and I took a cab to the hotel. We drank something in the trop cool Light Bar and then went to bed. I woke up the next morning at 8 AM, checked out walked around a bit on Picadilly, enjoying the morning buzz as London awoke. I took a cab to the station and got on the Eurostar back to Brussels. I had a great time. Nice of i-merge to send me there, even nicer of Kris to have me invited. Thanks. Honestly. :)


Posted by Miel Van Opstal in Geek, General, Social Networks


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  1. Darren Straight

    May 19, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Nice meeting you too and by the way great post, very well explained! :)


    May 19, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    [...] Related Posts: Robert Gale | Coolz0r | Zack | Simon Andrews [...]

  3. Robert Gale

    May 19, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Great report! It was good meeting up with you and I’m intrigued about my accent. I probably sounded really Welsh!

  4. Simon Andrews

    May 19, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Really nice to meet you the other night – and a very good post -much more cogent than mine. best of luck with the new job

  5. Chris

    May 19, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Glad I turned up late to meet you guys all again. Miels, you didn’t expect me to give away all our secrets, did you? ;)

  6. Romain

    May 19, 2006 at 5:25 pm


    Great post – I’m deeply impressed :]

    It was great meeting you and thx for coming !

  7. Koji Kato [MSFT]

    May 19, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Was great meeting with you too :) Happy that you liked the Tablet thing – I still believe in Tablet but my passion is stronger in the internet platform; thus I hope to continue driving both as better together.

    Stay in touch.

    - Koji

  8. Koji Kato [MSFT]

    May 21, 2006 at 2:03 am

    By the way I’m not ‘the’ Group Program Manager. I’m ‘a’ Group Program Manager – many phenomenal GPMs are working on Windows Live to make it a great product, I’m only 1 of them :) Just wanted to reinforce the degree of investment Microsoft has in this internet push.

  9. Jeroen

    May 21, 2006 at 9:40 am


    Nice blog, pretty long story about the evening and some nice facts in it! People that want to read more about it should also take a look on my space :-)


  10. David Boschmans Weblog : Windows Live or the new Microsoft platform

    May 23, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    [...] Windows Live or the new Microsoft platform Last Friday I did a presentation on the Windows Live services for a number of influential people in the Belgium developer and IT-Pro community. From what I’ve read on Kris’ blogpost “Windows Live session London” and Miel’s excellent coverage of the event in London, I touched more or less the same Windows Live services but – of course – not with the same depth as Phil Holden, Kevin Briody and Koji Kato did. I started with describing the Windows Live platform, its relationship to MSN and Next I discussed the following (beta) services: Windows Live Search: Windows Live Academic: The start page: Windows Live Local: and Windows Live Mail: Windows Live Mail Desktop Windows Live Messenger: download VOIP integration Bots Activities Windows Live QnA: Windows Live Shopping: Windows Live Expo: Windows Live OneCare: Windows Live Safety: Windows Live Toolbar: Windows Live Favourites: Windows Live Custom Domains:   At the end of the presentation I also mentioned that the Windows Live team is busy rebranding the current MSDN Windows Live Developer Center to the site. More information on the developer story for building mash-ups, gadgets and messenger activities can be found on this site. Check also out the Windows Live Developer Forums. Note that all services are based on the evolution of Microsoft Passport: Windows Live ID.   Another topic discussed during the Q&A session of my talk was Windows Desktop Search, its future and his reach to the enterprise. The LiveSide blog points to a whitepaper “Enterprise Search White Paper – May 2006″ that discusses how to bridge the gap between Information Management and Enterprise Search. This new search product is described as an enterprise level solution that provides a single user interface, binding together separate systems including new search capabilities built into Vista, Windows Desktop Search 3.0 utilized by Office 2007, the Business Data Catalog and Knowledge Network in Office SharePoint Server 2007, and internet search from Windows Live Search (the other one), including image search, news, rss, email, local, and shopping searches. Indeed … the 2007 Office System users will agree that for enabling “Instant Search” Office 2007 relies on Windows Desktop Search 3.0.   It was interesting to note that in the beginning of the presentation – when asking the for their knowledge of Windows Live – everybody was pretty much familar with the services of Windows Live. But when discussing the third Live service people started asking questions and were surprised to see so much features they hadn’t noticed before. Erwin has a blog post and some pictures talking about some of these features. Now it looks like I provided Erwin with some ideas on how to use Windows Live: over the weekend he built his first mash-up. Using the Windows Live Local service he visualizes the number of downloads of his recenly nominated Doppler project. This is a great example of leveraging the power of the Windows Live platform. Great stuff! And what’s even better is that Erwin is now programming the Google Web Toolkit from within Visual Studio 2005 using C#! Though some people already see the value of these “beta” services today, for most of the users the value of this platform will become clearer when some services will start integrate with eachother and leverage eachother functionality at least that’s what I hope.   For the Live Messenger users that are interested in a chat on Tech Ed US … the TechEd06 Bot for Messenger is available! Add to your Messenger contacts and start a conversation with the bot. (Compatible with Windows Live Messenger and MSN Messenger 7.x.)   Some of the Windows Live-blogs I read: LiveSide, Windows Live Spaces, Wndows Live Mail,,, Windows Live Local, Windows Live Expo, Windows Live Safety Center, Windows Live OneCare, Windows Live Search,  Windows Live Mail Desktop and the blogs mentioned above.   Tag: Windows Live Published Tuesday, May 23, 2006 11:52 PM by davbosch Filed Under: Developer Community [...]