The New York Times reports Sunday that the updated suite of online services Microsoft executives have been promising this summer is due to arrive this week. The Windows Live Suite is said to include Windows Live Mail, Messenger, Photo Gallery, as well as security software and possibly blogging software -- all installed in one move with a Unified Installer program.
In describing Microsoft's Internet services strategy, the story references Microsoft's bruising antitrust battle and raises the specter of history repeating itself. Veteran technology reporter John Markoff writes:
"Microsoft's new approach is in many ways a mirror image of the strategy used during the 1990s in defeating Netscape Communications when the start-up threatened Microsoft's desktop dominance. Microsoft tried to tie the Internet to Windows by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser as an integral part of its desktop operating system. The company lost an antitrust lawsuit in 2000 brought by the Justice Department in response to this bundling strategy.
"Today, that strategy has been flipped with the growing array of Web services that are connected to Windows. But the new approach, which the company refers to as 'software plus services,' is once again beginning to draw industry charges of unfair competition from competitors."
Those griping rivals were not named in the story.
Last week, I interviewed Howard University's Andrew Gavil, an antitrust law expert and close follower of Microsoft's court battles and subsequent settlement with the U.S. government, certain portions of which are coming to an end later this fall. I asked him then whether he saw Internet services as a potential new antitrust front.
"Ten years ago it was servers," Gavil said. "Now it's more of these Internet services. To the extent that you can do it in a way that's tied to Windows, you are attempting to utilize the market power you've developed with Windows to limit consumer choices and to keep them in the fold."
For more background on Microsoft's push into Internet services, check out stories we ran last week on the strategy and the technology behind the effort.