Windows Live paralysed, my abilities ‘frozen’, says Microsoft manager

An outgoing Microsoft Corp. manager hired to advance the company’s Windows Live strategy said Thursday Microsoft failed to give him adequate support and lacks commitment for building a comprehensive online services platform.

Niall Kennedy joined Microsoft in April as program manager for a new feed-syndication platform for Windows Live services, but he claims he didn’t get the resources needed for the project.

“I wasn’t able to hire people,” Kennedy said in an interview Thursday. He said he alone was expected to build the feed syndication engine, which would, among other things, provide a unified systems for integrating address books, RSS feeds, photos and other user content across the various Windows Live services. “It’s not possible [for one person to do] when you’re trying to serve 500 million users,” Kennedy said.

He added that this kind of back-end platform for online services is required to provide “the seamless experience for users — the same that they have on the desktop.”

Kennedy posted a message on his Web site Tuesday about why he was leaving Microsoft after only four months. His last day at the company is Aug. 18, and he said he plans to start his own company.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Kennedy was a community manager at Technorati Inc. and a speaker at technology conferences about creating Web communities and platforms.

Kennedy said he asked Microsoft executives why he was given such little support for a project the company specifically tapped him to oversee, but he said he is not at liberty to disclose what they told him.

In his Web-site message, Kennedy said he was extremely hopeful about Microsoft’s plan to create a host of online services to compete with Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. when he joined Microsoft. The company formally announced this plan last November.

“The Windows Live initiative got off to a huge start, with lots of new services created and an ‘invest to win’ strategy in the new division,” he wrote. “There were so many new programs created and headcount opening up. Microsoft told Wall Street it would be spending US$2 billion more than anticipated in the short-term to cover these new costs including over 10,000 new hires over the last fiscal year.”

However, when it became apparent soon after that Wall Street thought Microsoft was not doing a good job managing its costs, the company’s stock took a hit and the company in turn backed off on some Windows Live efforts, Kennedy wrote.

“Windows Live is under some heavy change, reorganization, pullback and general paralysis, and unfortunately my ability to perform, hire and execute was completely frozen as well,” he said.

In an e-mailed statement from its public relations firm, Microsoft said it is not pulling back on its Windows Live effort at all and is “totally committed and seeing great momentum across the company.”

Though Windows Live got a lot of attention when it was first launched, critics have become increasingly skeptical of whether Microsoft can use the services — which include rebranded MSN search, e-mail and instant-messaging properties — to drive advertising revenue and keep up with competitors Google and Yahoo. Many analysts see Windows Live as yet another rebrand of MSN, which has never been a profitable business for the company.

They also are waiting to see when sales made through the company’s recently launched adCenter paid-search advertising platform will pick up steam. Microsoft launched adCenter in the U.S. in May, but it has yet to contribute to the overall financial health of the company’s MSN division, where the platform resides.

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