Live ID: Core of Microsoft's Online Services Push

Over the weekend, I read and re-read all the transcripts from Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting 2007. While few things stood out like focus on Software + Services, next era of Consumer Electronics, Microsoft Services Platform (see Ray Ozzie's presentation) etc, Kevin Johnson's talk on Online Services and Advertising, more particularly discussion on Live ID's took my attention. According to Kevin, Microsoft has 380 million active (user that signs in and uses one or more of our services every 30 days) Live IDs and these are driving the breadth of usage of Microsoft (Live) Services.

There are four key things that are important. Live IDs in these services are sticky. People sign on and they use these services because it's about contacts that are important to them, data that's important to them, information and their profile in services that they use that's important to individuals. So it's a very sticky service.

Number two, it's revenue monetization. We can drive what I call direct revenue per live ID, the display ads or the in-screen videos or the searches done from these services as well as indirect revenue for Live ID. Indirect revenue per Live ID is as they come into the network, our ability to route traffic and flow them to other services, other parts of the network creates another revenue monetization opportunity.

So you have two things, sticky users, and you've got revenue production. Direction revenue for Live ID, indirect revenue for Live ID. Third, it enables ad serving. This creates significant amount of opportunity for us to know more about the users when they are signed in versus just a cookie or an IP address. As users are signed in, we can do a better job of behavioral targeting or ad targeting to these particular users, which is good for the user, more relevant advertising, and it's good for the advertiser. It's more targeted at the audience they're trying to get after.

And we have some momentum coming out of fiscal year '07. We grew Live IDs in fiscal year '07 by over 20 percent to get to that 380 million. Where are we going in fiscal year '08? The next release of Windows Live will be coming out this fall. It is a suite of user services, a single suite of user services. A single download, single download and install to the PC that will enable users to use these services whether they're on the PC, on the phone, or just directly from browser to Internet. A very rich set of services.

This next release of Windows Live is the must-have free upgrade to the Windows experience. And so we're going to drive very hard on continuing to expand the number of users we have using these Windows Live services. Let me give you some perspective. We're at 380 million Live IDs. We're getting ready to release this next release of Windows Live in the fall. Yahoo is about 245 million active registered users; Google has approximately 75 million signed-in users.

Our ability as a company to better connect to the Windows experiences such as mail, Photo Gallery, as well as the experience on the phone and extend those into services experiences, I think, will enable us to expand Live IDs and really grow our reach in the network. So that's one key priority our engineering teams are focused on, our marketing teams, our field teams.

The core thing to note here would be more relevant advertising that Microsoft is targeting based on the knowledge of who the Live ID user is. This is where Microsoft has edge on Google. Google while having more number of users using it's Search services, have not really paid much heed to getting to know it's users and have relied on using IP address and search terms to target ads/services. Knowing Live ID user can open enormous opportunities for Microsoft to target ads to the users. Consider this fictitious (soon to be real) scenario, Your friend X bought a pair of Nike shoes and when you search for shoes on, Microsoft using Windows Live Contact services has identified your friend and will in return show you the same shoe telling you this is what your friend bought. You wanna buy that? :) How cool would that be.