All sorts of sources are reporting that Steve Berkowitz, former head of ask.com, has been hired to be Senior Vice-President of the Online Business group, which includes include MSN.com, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access programming, advertising sales, business development, and marketing for Live Platforms, MSN and Windows Live.
There have generally been some signs of life in some of the recent activities in the Windows Live/MSN sphere, like MSN Spaces (if not their reaction to the Chinese government), Windows Live Expo, Windows Live Local (their technology demo of a drive through downtown Seattle is a gas), and the progress on opening up the online platform for developers to take advantage of the services.
I’m also really intrigued by Windows Live@edu, Microsoft’s service for hosted email and online services for educational institutions – though to date I have not been successful (despite several attempts) at actually getting any contact back from Microsoft about this program.
I think Ray Ozzie is a smart fellow, and I admire his progress to date on trying to re-orient a huge corporation from the sales of desktop and server software to the heavily connected universe we now live in, where much of the software and services exist out in the network cloud somewhere.
While I’ve never been very impressed by ask.com (or its parent company IAC, who I interacted with some in previous professional life), my guess is that the Berkowitz hire is primarily about Microsoft trying to figure out a way to build a lot of advertising revenue to support these new online ventures. Hopefully they’ll leave the technology directions to Ozzie and his colleagues.