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Microsoft details Windows Live 'platform'

Software giant bets advertising, Microsoft-hosted services will motivate developers to write consumer Web applications. Photos: The view from TechEd

BOSTON--Microsoft has spelled out its strategy to make its Live Web services accessible to third-party developers, part of its push to capitalize on online services.

At the Microsoft TechEd conference on Tuesday, executives sketched out the technical infrastructure the company is building. They also discussed key elements of the business model, notably advertising, that Microsoft is expecting to fuel its services push.

TechEd 2006

"Windows Live services as a platform allows you as a business to establish relationships with consumers," said George Moore, the general manager of Windows Live Development Platform.

Microsoft provides Web hosting services and a range of Internet-delivered services, such as storage, identity authentication and search. It also offers applications such as Web e-mail or instant messenging.

Moore said that there are more than 240 million users of Hotmail, Microsoft's Web e-mail, and more than 230 million Microsoft Messenger users. Businesses or developers can build services that reach those consumers through these and other Microsoft Web properties, he said.

"We're building an audience, and it is addressable by businesses that choose to build these services," Moore said.

He said as applications that use Live services become available, there will be more advertising money available to fuel development of more of those services.

One example of these "mashups" of applications and Live service would be a real estate application that allows someone to see, using the Virtual Earth mapping service, the number of homes in a certain area.

At TechEd, Microsoft executives also showed off a "bot" application on Windows Live Messenger, where a person typed in questions via the instant messaging program to find out movie times or get help desk support.

Microsoft is seeking to enlist third-party developers to write these mashup applications, which combine information from different sites. By building up a network of Live partners, which could be individuals or other software companies, Microsoft hopes to drive traffic to its sites, executives said.

The company is trying to appeal to developers who write so-called Web 2.0 applications related to public Web sites, such as search or mapping services. And Microsoft is trying to draw in corporate developers and independent software vendors, executives said.

Right now, most Live services can be accessed by programmers via an application programmer interface (API). Over the course of the year, Microsoft will release more APIs in different forms, said Ken Levy, a product planner for Windows Live Platform.

In addition, Microsoft will seek to make it easier to write mashup applications that run on a "rich client," or a full-featured Windows PC, rather than through a browser, said Scott Swanson, group planning manager for Windows Live Platform.