Microsoft Envisions ‘Contact-Centric’ Future

More than just connecting users to other users, the future of Web communication is to be the repository of all the information a customer needs to communicate on the Internet, according to Microsoft Corp.s vision for its Windows Live services.

Blake Irving, corporate vice president of the MSN Communication Services and Member Platform group, said a users account will become that users space, which includes contacts, preferences, presence and availability. The only e-mail address that you have to know is your own, said Irving. You can use any PC to get your contacts.

Describing this future view as contact-centric, Irving introduced Live Contacts, a feature of Windows Live that can provide contact information to other services.

Most of the things that people do on the Web they do with other people: plan travel, research information, he said. For that reason almost every service that we build will have a relationship to Live Contacts.

The new vision will feature more use of video and IM. A press release from Microsoft about the new features said the company has seen a sharp uptick in the use of voice and video services by customers in the past six months, including record usage in January.

MSN Messenger hosted voice sessions totaling more than 800 million minutes in January 2006. Video usage on the service is currently growing even faster than voice usage alone, with video conversation connecting customers for almost 1.1 billion minutes in January. In addition, stand-alone Webcam usage totaled an additional 7 billion minutes in January.

Video and instant messages, Irving said, also allow communication with more people.

Voice tends to be a serial process, but when you are having an IM conversation with someone else, you can do 15 other things, he said.

Video also changes how some users communicate.

If you have a lot of screen space, if you have a video camera, are you going to do just voice with that? Irving asked. Teenagers, when they do video, turn off the audio. That, way, they can share video with one person and do other seven video windows at once with others, and no one knows.

There also are structural efficiencies in how Microsoft will create its Live Contacts. Today there are nearly 13 billion contacts listed for MSN subscribers, much of that information duplicated. Instead, Microsoft would create a space for each member that would have all contact information. If members are buddies with each other, changes in contact information will be available immediately to all buddies rather than having to contact each one.

Overall, Live Contacts will build a complete presence- and contact-centric communications experience, Irving said. Voice and video will play a critical role as a data type that brings relationships to life online, taking us from an era of black and white to Technicolor.”

Microsoft Corp.


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