Paul Kedrosky has his first impressions of Microsoft's entry into blog writing world. His "huh" has some merit based on my first impressions. My friend and intrepid reporter, Mark Evans, also has a view. I saw Paul's review first, triggered by the weird post Live Writer stuck into his blog, more on that in a minute.
I'll give you my impression from two perspectives, one the dumb user (me) and the VC as this applies to the start up world.
The download was (thank you) straight forward, no signing up for anything; 5 points. The install, on the other hand.. For those of you that remember the 'make XXX my default whatever' wars, fear not, they are alive and well inside Redmond It's not possible, for example, to have a button on IE to just 'blog it', nope, you have to take the whole Windows Live toolbar enchilada which, of course, mess up all the nice configurations I had with Google's toolbar, search, etc. Live Writer is part of the toolbar group/family. My reasoning? Press the F1 key while in the product and you get:
Okay, a bit of the conspiracy theorist coming through, heh. But, least you think Microsoft is becoming a massive pile of programming drones all marching to the single sound of Ray, relax, there is independence thriving inside the company, no worries. After all, what else but somebody wanting to say bite me to the man, could explain why this application uses SHIFT-F7 for the spelling check when every other Microsoft app PLUS most other apps trying to conform to a single 'standard', uses F7. Oh, and this is interesting. If you jump into Outlook or Word and type 'the man' with the single quotes, hit the return key and type Redmond, the spell check ignores the single quotes and figures out that Redmond should be Redmond. Here, in Live Writer, Redmond gets you an error (it can't figure it out) and 'the is an error as is man' because the spelling machine inside Live Writer can't figure it out.
I'm not a spelling phreak, not by a long shot, it just strikes me as odd that something like F7 gets messed with and the spelling of things inside quotes isn't working when this should be done deals with every Microsoft application. Ah well.
As yet another left hand not talking to the right hand example: The snipping tool that you can get for the Tablet PC from Microsoft clips stuff and saves it, by default, in its own format. Don't do this if you'd like to actually put them into Live Writer, blows the application up. And pasting a screen shot to the clipboard for inclusion? That doesn't work either, you can only import a picture. Not fatal, just another data point.
And on the install/configuration. To make sure it can talk to Typepad, Live Writer creates a post and then can't get it off your blog. It puts up a dialog box telling to go manually delete it. I saw the test entry in my RSS reader from Paul's blog. It also left a turd on mine but I was right there to get rid of it, hopefully, nobody saw it. No other tool I've tried does this or leaves a turd behind. If you have a Microsoft spaces blog, no turd is left on your blog. Microsoft could have asked Typepad and the others for help here, assuming there is an issue in the first place, but chose to leave the poopy (tired of the word turd). Seems lazy to me, but I don't know the details. The fact it works fine with Microsoft's offer does not surprise me and I would not share Mark's possibility this is a new found, play nice with everybody, attitude. It's interesting this would ship with such an obvious works on our stuff, not on others, but it fits. Not fatal.
It is not a bad application but not so great as to get me off what I am using today. It strikes me as a completeness of offer ploy. By that I mean if you use Microsoft's platform for blogging, you should have a tool to blog with and this is being offered up. Personally, having a word template/macro/button/plug-in or some such would be nice since I live in Word or said option inside Outlook since I live there as well. So, while not said as harsh as Dr. Kedrosky, I'd recommend sticking with what you have or using a simpler alternative like Qumara, Bleezer (all platforms!), or BlogJet. Note to the Live Writer team: They got the F7 key figured out and the single quote stuff as well, give any of these guys a call.
The VC Observation
First, the 20,000 person rule applies here. I talked, in a previous post, about Randy's RMail project and his 20,000 users. At a dollar a month per user, he could do alright for himself. I don't think this product knocks anybody out of the blogging tools game, not even close. So, keep coding and keep bringing out good tools, there are a ton of people out here in userland that would like to give your stuff a shot.
As a side note, according to Mark's interview with Randy, he is pulling in about $1000 a month in ad revenue, not enough to buy the Google plane but a good start toward box seats for the Raptors.
Second, ecosystem rules apply. Live Writer has an SDK and that spells opportunities for developers. So, regardless of my nits above, you can count on a number of things. A ton of people will have/use this product. That same ton of people will get bugged by a missing feature or service and look to you. Remember, my nits above don't apply to people outside the echo chamber. They will click on the spelling check button on the application and use Jpegs for pictures. They probably don't have Tablet PCs either. So, my advice to you is ignore me, Paul, Mark, and others. Dig into the SDK and see what little gems you can create to extend this puppy. If history is any guide you can be sure that Microsoft will be delighted to tell the world about your add on, so get coding.
Side note: Paul linked to Om Malik (my 'others' above) review of Live Writer. I just went back and read it slowly. Om made a good point about this being potentially part of the Onfolio acquisition (somebody in the comments section confirmed it). That might explain the Shift-F7/crappy spelling check nonsense. Not excuse it, but explain it. Memo to Mini-Microsoft: When slimming down the company, keep some testers around.