Windows Live Wave 3 Planning Memo (August 2007) — Part 1

When Microsoft began rolling out its primarily consumer-focused Windows Live service line-up, there seemed to be little rhyme or reason to the company’s plans. Enter Chris Jones, Corporate Vice President of Windows Live Experience. In 2007, Jones, along with colleagues David Treadwell, Corporate Vice President of Live Platform Services, and Brian Arbogast, Corporate Vice President of Mobile Services, began trying to bring some discipline and regimentation to the Windows Live development effort.

In the summer of 2007, that gang of three issued a Windows Live Wave 3 planning document that
demonstrated just how much they planned to change the modus operandi of the Windows Live team. The thinking: Theme planning, milestones, vision checkpoints, and other Windows-like conventions, if successfully implemented, will make Windows Live services more predictable and reliable. (The addition of these more rigorous quality gates also risk slowing the Windows Live development pace, however.) Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if and when Microsoft ends up acquiring Yahoo — or even if its acquisition bid ends up a distraction more than a reality — how these milestones and policies are impacted.

Here is Part 1 of Microsoft’s internal Windows Live Wave 3 Planning Memo.

TO: Windows Live Experience Team; Live Platform Services Team
FROM: Chris Jones, David Treadwell, Brian Arbogast
RE: Planning Windows Live Wave 3

INTRODUCTION

As we are nearing the completion of Windows Live Wave 2, we want to congratulate the teams on their work to date.  Windows Live Wave 2 delivers the first version of our integrated suite of software services.

Our mission is to deliver the essential suite of software and services for individuals around the world, designed to help them stay connected (browse, create, manage, and share with the people they choose, on any device) and protected (provide safety and security for their information, their families, and their devices), built on the leading platform for developers, merchants, and advertisers. We believe that users of these services will create a web of user defined content that will improve the traffic to Windows Live Search, create a valuable audience for advertisers, and enable the next generation of software and content publishers.  We believe our investments in safety, security and PC health will differentiate our experience and dramatically increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.  At the same time, we believe this combination of software and services will be an incredible benefit and differentiator for the Windows PC and Windows powered devices.  Finally, we believe that it is the work of the community of developers and content publishers that will enhance and uniquely differentiate the experience for customers.

This document is the planning memo and it outlines the shared assumptions in our planning work across Windows Live Experience and related teams in Live Platform Services and Mobile Services:

* It covers the state of the market – including customers, partners, competition, and challenges.
* It outlines our strategy for Windows Live. It sets the shared themes and bets that span all the features in Windows Live Wave 3 and investments for Wave 4.
* It outlines the feature teams and areas for investment in Windows Live, as well as the questions to be asked and answered as part of team planning.
* It sets the timeline and schedule for both our plan and Wave 2.

Together we will build a plan that spans the work in Windows Live Experience and Live Platform Services and supports the business priorities established by the Online Services Group.  This plan will cover the work and commitments for the teams over the next year.  A wave describes the deliverables that happen throughout the year, including smaller improvements that are made to our services on an ongoing basis.  As we plan, it is important to recognize that the platform group needs more notice and time to build out both back end infrastructure and operations.  So when we plan Wave 3 we need to also look out enough to plan the platform work for Wave 4. We are making a few changes from Wave 2 based on our experience as a team.

* We are going to focus our planning work on themes that span feature teams.  We hope in doing so to improve the experience for customers when using our suite together.
* We are going to enter planning as a team with a clear definition of planning themes, including click-through prototypes.  As we do this we will front load design of major cross Wave dependencies.
* We will have clear entry and exit criteria for MQ, and use MQ to invest in design and implementation of major cross team dependencies.

The following figure illustrates our planning process.

planning_memo

This planning memo starts our planning process and is intended to be used by teams to develop the vision and the feature set for their areas.  It describes bets and themes for Wave 3.  These themes in many cases span experience and platform, client and service, and are used during planning to structure our investigation of what to build.  In some cases, this means we will decide not to pursue a theme.  In other cases, we will merge themes together.  In others, we’ll narrow our definition.  And in some cases, a new set of scenarios will emerge.  As we investigate the themes, and scope what is possible, we will write the vision document, which defines the pillars for our release.  As with Wave 2, the vision document describes our team commitment to deliver.

Some people have asked “what’s the difference between a theme and a pillar?”  Themes are used in planning, and outline the areas of exploration for a Wave.  By design, we have more themes than we can fit in a Wave.  In the course of planning, we will refine the themes into work that can be achieved in our release timeframe.  This exploration, based on detailed plans from the feature teams, results in the pillars for the release.  It is possible for a theme to become a pillar.  It is also possible that in planning we merge themes or come up with a new set of scenarios that become a pillar.

In Wave 2, themes were provides as guidance to feature teams.  In Wave 3, themes will be the foundation of our planning process.  Each theme will have an owner (generally a GPM and/or PUM), a product planner, and, in most cases, a design lead.  Each theme owner will produce a presentation and a high-fidelity click through prototype for each theme.  The role of the owner will be to coordinate the investigation of each theme, working with product planning, product management, design, development, testing, and other discipline leaders.  They will work across dependent teams as they are writing their drafts and make sure that scenarios or features that span teams are covered end to end.  They will outline the proposed scenarios and customer promise.  We expect to hold these theme checkpoint meetings in late October with the theme owners.

These theme checkpoints provide scoped and refined themes to the feature teams, who will then work on planning their work for Wave 3.  Once we have scoped the themes, we will have a set of feature team checkpoints, where the teams will describe what they believe can be delivered for Wave 3 based on our themes.  These feature teams are the experts on the scenarios and specifics for their area and are responsible for building best of breed solutions to meet customer demand.  Any conflicts or disagreements between teams should be resolved as part of the checkpoint meetings. We will hold checkpoint meetings with each feature team in December, where the feature teams will outline their plans for Wave 3.

Following these checkpoint meetings, we will decide on the pillars for Wave 3 and write the vision document.  The GPMs and/or PUMs will work with Chris Jones and David Treadwell to create a single draft vision document that spans the work in Windows Live Wave 2.  This will include the value proposition, tenets, top level schedule, shared bets, and feature commitments across our teams.  We will load balance as required across teams to make sure that the themes and scenarios are delivered for the Wave.  We expect to publish the vision document in December.

The feature teams will use the vision document and resource plan to build the final feature list and schedule for their area.  Following their detailed schedules, we will have a vision week with team members and partners where we walk through the vision, demonstrate the prototypes, and commit to the shared schedule.  For Windows Live Experience teams, we will then move into M1 and coding for Windows Live Wave 3….

BIG BETS

There are a few bets we will make as a team that we know now will require work from all of us to achieve the vision.  These bets represent initiatives across the team.  In some cases, they will be realized by work that spans feature teams, and in others they will be largely owned by a single feature team.  Each feature team must understand the work required to support each bet as part of their Wave 3 planning.  As with Wave 2, we have picked a targeted number of bets for Wave 3.Windows and Internet Explorer.

While Windows Live is a service that is available across devices, we know most customers connect to their services on a Windows PC using Internet Explorer.  We have a unique opportunity to provide a seamless experience for customers who choose to use our services with Windows and Internet Explorer.

While we will target a seamless experience on Windows Vista, we will make a bet on the Windows 7 platform and experience, and create the best experience when connected with Windows 7.  We will work with the Windows 7 team and be a first and best developer of solutions on the Windows 7 platform.

Our experiences will be designed so when they are connected to Windows 7 they seamlessly extend the Windows experience, and we will work to follow the Windows 7 style guidelines for applications.  We will work with the Internet Explorer 8 team to make sure we deliver an experience that seamlessly extends the browser with our toolbar and other offerings.Search and MSN

Our network of services combined completes the experience for our customers, advertisers, and partners.  We will be on MSN as the unified portal and customized home page for Microsoft’s services.  We will bet on Live Search to connect customers to information when in our experiences.

We will optimize our experience for customers who use MSN and Live Search, and create unique experiences that work together across Microsoft’s network of services.

Beta and Service Deployment

We will invest across our suite in improvements to beta and service deployment, with a particular focus on web-based services.  We will make it possible to “self-host” and “dogfood” all services ontop of “live” data, so it easy to test and use the products before they are deployed to production.

We will invest to increase the stability and maintenance of our INT environment.  We will make it possible for customers to “opt in” to beta versions of our services so we can introduce betas and get customer feedback without updating the entire customer base.

PLANNING THEMES

Everyone should think about planning themes as the rough draft for the vision document.  They form the areas for exploration and set of questions we will ask and answer as a team as part of our planning process.  By design, we have more themes than we can fit in a Wave.  These themes in many cases span experience and platform, client and service, and are used during planning to structure our investigation of what to build.  In the course of planning, we will refine the themes into work that can be achieved in our release timeframe.  As we investigate the themes, and scope what is possible, we will write the vision document, which defines the pillars for our release.  As with Wave 2, the vision document describes our team commitment to deliver.  In Wave 2, themes were provide(d) as guidance to feature teams.  In Wave 3, themes will be the foundation of our planning process.

Refining the Web Experience

As part of our vision to help customers get to their information from anywhere, it is essential for us to have an integrated, browser-based way to deliver our services. With Wave 2, we started our integration with a shared home page and header for navigation.  This in turn uncovered a new set of seams in the experience.  We’ll add more services in Wave 3 – for example device management, RSS feeds – that will need to fit in to our experience.  We need to rethink the overall navigation model between the current header and secondary navigation in spaces.

What is the difference between the “what’s new” view on spaces and home.live.com?  Should private messaging and the inbox come together as a single concept?  Are events part of the calendar or separate?  How do we bring together the concept of home/start and dashboard, or should we?  Do we have a navigation model pivoted on people (my stuff, friends stuff) or data (photos, files, etc)? Or some hybrid?

Our customers will use both MSN and Live Search, in addition to Windows Live, and we want to support navigation across the network.  Today our header is optimized for “my view of my stuff” – showing customers their services – and is scoped to a few elements.  We have an opportunity to connect our networks together and optimize the depth scenario.  What should my view of my stuff be?  How does the experience change when viewing someone else’s space?  How do customers move from MSN to Live Search to Windows Live?  As we move to MSN as the “home page,” what is the evolution of home.live.com, how does cross navigation work? How does Office Live extend the experience?

Some customers will run on a Windows PC and have our client software and use it together with browser-based services.  In Wave 2 we delivered limited integration between our client and browser experience.  How should we change our web-based experience when we know customers are using our client software?  How does our experience change if the toolbar and /or Messenger are installed? What if the customer is on their primary PC?  How do we use our web-based suite to encourage use of our client software?

Many customers will use Internet Explorer to connect to our services.  We have a unique opportunity to extend the browsing experience for customers using Internet Explorer with our toolbar and additional services that enhance the browsing experience.  What scenarios and features will we enable that are unique for customers using Internet Explorer?  How should our web-based experience change if the toolbar is installed?  How do our services make the browser experience better?

Certain web-sites today have a flair or particular shared set of experiences that make them a family of sites.  There are “signature elements” of their design.  With Wave 3 we have the opportunity to redefine the look and feel of our site.  What is the next generation of our visual style and interaction model?  How do we take a quantum leap in our web-design?  How will Wave 3 “pop” for customers?  What should stay consistent in our web design, product taxonomy, information architecture in order to create a sense of familiarity for our customers? What should our next generation of standard controls be?  Will we pursue a ribbon or other common element?  What is our platform target for the browser?  What is our down-level target?  Mobile?  AJAX?  What is the role of SilverLight in our design?

This theme involves close collaboration with the Internet Explorer, MSN, and Search teams.  Examples of features we could build to support this theme include:

* Make it seamless to navigate between content on MSN, information on Live Search, and Windows Live services
* Dramatically update our web-based experience with professional themes and controls that have a new level of performance, quality, and interaction
* Provide a richer browsing experience when running on Internet Explorer, including roaming of favorites and browser settings, and a toolbar and suite-header that naturally extends the browsing experience.

Seamless Windows Experience

As mentioned in our bets, we will invest to deliver a seamless experience for customers who own a Windows PC. We have a unique opportunity to remove the seams between Windows, our applications, and our services. Windows Live Wave 3 will be designed so it feels like a natural extension of the Windows experience.

We have an opportunity to make it much easier for customers to “get started” with Windows Live. Our goal should be to have customers log in, type their Live ID, and then they are automatically “set up” with Live. For new machines, we want Windows Live to come with the experience and will consider investments to make this experience easy. For customers who are upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7, we will explore ways to make it easy for them to get Windows Live – particularly for photos, calendar, and movies where our applications complete the experience.

We will “light up” the Windows experience with Windows Live. One way to think about this goal is that from 10’ away a customer can tell that a Windows PC has Windows Live – whether through a new theme or other feature. What does it mean to “light up” the start menu, taskbar, sidebar, and folders? What happens when a customer types their Live ID in their Windows account? As an example, we could “light up” the user tile on the start menu with their picture, add presence information, and automatically replicate and roam their documents, photos, and other media. We could roam a set of Windows settings, including background bitmap and other preferences, making it easy to make one PC look like another PC. Our family safety solution could naturally extend the Windows experience for parental controls, providing reporting and content filtering as well as account management.

What’s the relationship between a Windows account and a Windows Live ID?  Should we have a LiveID connected to account settings?

The Windows 7 platform provides new enhancements that allow us to deliver even richer experiences for customers. We will invest in differentiated features that “light up” on Windows 7, and in this theme we will identify these “signature elements” – gestures, ribbon, or other – that make our suite best on Windows 7. We will explore innovations in graphics and presentation, including window management and high-DPI support, that make our applications feel distinct and “pop” on the new platform. What experience will we provide when we “light up” Windows with Windows Live? What is better with Windows 7? What experiences or scenarios are Win7 only? How do we take advantage of or lay the foundation to take advantage of some of the hardware innovations already available or planned for Windows 7?

Windows Live will have value for every Windows customer. If you have an email account and use the Internet, Windows Live will make your experience better. (add more here…) For customers who have Windows Live Messenger, we will explore using Messenger to recommend and “upgrade” their experience. For example, if a customer is using Messenger on their primary Windows PC, Messenger can recommend “getting all of Windows Live,” download the software, and enhance their Windows experience. How can we use Messenger to increase the depth of engagement of our customers in our software and service suite?

Our client software experiences today have different experiences for the user tile, toolbars, menus, spelling, and navigation. While there is a cost to sharing code, there is a benefit to customers who will have a consistent experience with our site. What are the common elements that define our client suite? What is our approach to common controls?  Should we have a shared sign in for Live ID or keep it separate? What is the evolution of setup and update?  Should we invest in other shared infrastructure – spelling, editing, parts/extensibility? Should we have “parts” that are shared between Live Writer, the Photo Gallery, and Mail, that enable connection to 3rd party services?

Beyond shared components, what are the shared scenarios for suite? Today it is hard to share photos and add a blog or start a blog and add a photo album. How can we bring our experiences together for publishing, sharing, and communication?

Many customers will use Office and Office 14, and we will work to connect these customers to our experience. What happens when a customer sets up Windows Live and uses Office? It should be easy to use Windows Live Messenger and our communication services with the Outlook client. It should be easy to publish from Office applications to Live Folders.

This theme will involve close collaboration with the Windows 7 and Office 14 teams. Examples of features we could build to support this theme include:

* Make it easy to get set up with Windows Live by typing your Windows Live ID, and automatically download the information and applications required
* Enhance the Windows desktop with Windows Live services and a new theme so customers feel their Windows PC has “come alive” after Windows Live is installed
* Support Windows 7 platform enhancements so Windows Live feels like a natural extension of the Windows system, including gestures, ribbon, and other elements
* Enable a “one-click” way to take my settings, get a Live ID, and “move them” to the service so that POP/IMAP import happens in the cloud.
* What’s our next level of investment in family safety?  What is the experience of parental controls and account management (with Windows 7)?

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