Microsoft's 320 million anti-Google weapons

Yesterday I was sitting in Brian Hall’s office when the Yahoo/Google news was breaking. Who’s he? The guy at Microsoft who runs most of the non-search Windows Live stuff. You know, Hotmail, Messenger, Spaces, and a bunch of other stuff.

We filmed a little fun cell phone video, but our longer interview will be up sometime over next few weeks.

In that he told me what Microsoft is going to do now that the Yahoo deal fell through. He admitted that he was one of the guys working on that deal.

His number one weapon to use against Google?

The 320 million active users of Hotmail and Messenger. That’s 320 million people who have signed into these services in the past 30 days (which, by the way, is WAY up from when I worked at Microsoft — when I worked at Microsoft they were saying 150 to 200 million). Keep in mind that Facebook looks like they just passed 100 million users, so you can see that these are still very popular services.

The trick is how do you get an email user turned into a user of a larger set of services.

Brian showed me several ways. One of the coolest was that if you try to email a photo to someone, which he claimed was still the #1 way to share a photo with people, it automatically uploads those photos to Microsoft’s photo-sharing service and builds links to those pages right in your email.

What did I take away from our visit to Microsoft? You can never count these guys out. They always have the potential to change the marketplace because of how many users still are engaged with their stuff.

The ties they are building between services are interesting. I think Microsoft needs a social networking component like Google’s Friend Connect, though, which would be used on all these services.

Hmmm, why doesn’t Mark Zuckerberg build them one? Imagine if that happened and the social graph showed up on Hotmail and on Messenger?

UPDATE: tons of people are talking about this post over on FriendFeed.