What happened to the old fashioned way of creating a larger user base through actual improvement of the service or software? That’s how Microsoft did it in the past with Office, and it has dominated the market through being the best product.
Now it seems their prevailing tactic of increasing market share is by throwing money in the form of prizes at the problem. Microsoft Live Club entices users to use Windows Live Search through prizes, Live Search Cashback gives cash back for purchases and Windows Live for Mobile is running a summer giveaway for sending emails with the service. While I’m not complaining about the opportunity to win free swag like Zunes and such, this seems like a highly ineffective tactic. After playing games at Live Club, my impression of Live Search was not any better than before playing the games, because its service just was not as good. After all, when has Google ever run a “summer contest” for using Gmail mobile? Ultimately, I still end up using Live.com only for its definition search, because it is actually better than Google’s.
While the prizes are just a drop in the bucket, wouldn’t all that effort be better spent improving the service itself? Google seems to be able to constantly churn out fantastic updates to its services like Gmail and Docs, while Windows Live services such as Spaces, Favorites, and SkyDrive just seem to sit neglected with no apparent updates. I would much rather use Live Search if the effort spent redesigning the Club homepage was spent adding even the simplest new feature to Live Search itself.