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Jan 31, 2009

CLIP ABC Says Web Viewers Will Tolerate Twice the Ads

How Long Before an Online TiVo?

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The web is about to get a little more like TV -- minus the ad-skipping. ABC.com has started to peddle research that shows online viewers will tolerate shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" with ads from multiple sponsors, much like TV.

Twice the ads? Really?
Twice the ads? Really?
Photo Credit: ABC

Albert Cheng, exec VP of Disney-ABC TV digital media group, talked about ABC's research, conducted by Nielsen Media Research, on a panel at this year's National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas. ABC spokesperson Karen Hobson said the network is showing the data to agencies in hopes of getting them to buy into the concept.

Network programming on the web, whether on ABC.com, CBS.com, TV.com, Hulu or any other distributor, has typically had a single sponsor. Sometimes ABC has featured one national advertiser and one local advertiser. Online programs have also generally had one ad per break, in part to keep viewers from clicking away, and in part to lure marketers to try what was once a new concept.

As a bonus, the networks disable the fast-forward button, so ads can't be skipped, and since ad recall is higher, they've been able to charge higher cost-per-thousand rates than TV. But because there are many fewer ads, online revenue per viewer for the networks is still far below that on TV.

Boosting ad loads
ABC.com has been making noise for some time about boosting ad loads to bring the amount of revenue earned from viewers more in line with TV, and started conducting research early in 2008. "We can actually increase deliver, reach and frequency by looking at a model that will have more sponsors and more ads," Cheng said at NATPE, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The ABC/Nielsen research concluded that adding multiple sponsors per ad break had "a minimal effect" on recall and did not affect purchase consideration or ad attentiveness. ABC said the data show that doubling the number of ads within a show from four to eight "did not affect the viewers' overall experience with the ABC.com player."

If ABC.com is successful, expect other online players to follow, since demand for online spots in network shows generally outstrips supply. The danger, as MediaVest Worldwide's Donna Speciale so aptly put it, is finding "that very fine line and balance before we push them over the edge of being pissed."

CLIP Driving Change: Selling SharePoint and Social Media Inside the Enterprise

Businesses and established organizations are vastly different environments than the Web 2.0 social networking-centric universe. Where Web 2.0 is all about sharing information and engaging in two-way conversations, the enterprise concerns itself, in part, with individuals who are guarded with information and an organizational structure that disseminates information in top-down fashion. From my experience of evangelizing the benefits of social media at a mid-sized civil engineering company, I have learned many lessons on how the enterprise regards and judges social media.

This is a guest post written by Jason Harris, a technology writer and SharePoint administrator.

The company I work for consists of roughly 950 employees spread across 23 offices up and down the west coast of the United States and some points eastward. How do I drive SharePoint and the concept of social media in a company in which most of my clientele consists of middle-aged civil engineers, most of whom don't see any benefit to making their work more social?

Problem: Individuals are Unaware of the Basics of Social Media

In the enterprise, many employees think blogs are merely websites on which people talk about their cat or their latest meal. Many don't know the differences between and advantages of such tools as message boards, blogs, and wikis. They have heard of these terms in passing, but the demands of their day-to-day jobs have prevented them from recognizing the distinct benefits of each tool.

Solution: It is useless to advocate for social media tools in a vacuum. Unless you're describing a solution to a practical problem, busy workers will not respond to buzzwords like "wiki," "blog," and "community." Your client usually has about a 30-second attention span in which you can sell a social media tool.

An aide in my arsenal has been the excellent videos by Lee Lefever at Common Craft. Lee visually explains social media concepts "In Plain English." Common Craft videos quickly explain complex and sometimes unfamiliar technologies in a few minutes, sans the buzzwords, hype, and sensationalism.

Problem: Cynical Clients Who Don't Want to Share Information

Unfortunately, some potential SharePoint users balk at the technology because they have no desire to share their knowledge for the benefit of the organization. These individuals tend to equate their knowledge with job security; therefore, they feel nervous about sharing out of fear that they wouldn't be needed any more.

Solution: As Guy Kawasaki says, "Look for agnostics, ignore atheists." If you sense your potential client has no interest in sharing information or contributing to an online community (in this case, powered by SharePoint), move on to other parties who would be interested in building a knowledge base and community.

Often, when people thumb their noses at the concept of a SharePoint website housing a body of knowledge, the time comes when they turn to that website or community for a piece of information to complete a task or carry out a project. As a result, they'll see the value of the online community and will be more inclined to contribute their knowledge to it.

Problem: Knowing Where to Start

Information technology managers and business folk have heard stories about the benefits of social media use in the enterprise but are unsure where to start.

Solution: Analyze your particular circumstances. Technology alone won't fix or alleviate a business problem. Merely throwing up a wiki and publicizing it doesn't guarantee its success. Instead, use collaborative technologies such as SharePoint to solve the problem.

For example, some companies have tedious workflows to address routine functions, such as requesting time off and filling out time cards. SharePoint has built-in features that help complete these functions quickly and easily. Take time-off requests, for example: Microsoft has aspecific site template for this very purpose (which is free).

The point here is to take collaborative technology and apply it to processes that are routine and can be easily completed. This low-hanging fruit shows users the benefit of embracing a new way of doing things. At this point, when their minds are spinning at the possibilities, you can suggest other areas in which to apply SharePoint and other collaborative technologies.

Social media, collaboration, and tools such as SharePoint deliver many benefits to work groups and teams of all sizes. There are many challenges to overcome, many of them either mental or political, but the rewards definitely outweigh the hurdles. With care, nurturing, and proper execution, your work group or enterprise will enjoy the numerous benefits social media have to offer.

This guest post was written by Jason Harris, a technology writer and SharePoint administrator. To follow him, read his blog.

Jan 30, 2009

CLIP BBC Stops Trying To Be Google, Abandons Web Search

After being ordered by its BBC Trust to reconsider whether it really wants to do a poor imitation of Google (NSDQ: GOOG), the BBC has decided to drop its external web search tool, which was tucked away in some dark corners of its sprawling website.

BBC online controller Seetha Kumar: "You cannot help but come to the conclusion that BBC web search was not sufficiently different in quality or character from others like Google or MSN to justify the time and money spent maintaining it. Users have easy access, usually in their browser, to a very similar service. Usage is not high, accounting, on average, for between 10 -15 percent of the total amount of searches made on BBC Online.

"We'd do far better to concentrate on making our own BBC website search as good as it can be, for example by developing our topics proposition and improving the way we point users to other related content around and off the site. To be honest, there is a lot we can do to provide users with a range of editorially selected links to other high quality sites in the UK and elsewhere. This is why we have decided - with the endorsement of the BBC Trust - to end the web search option."

Jan 29, 2009

STATS Online Newspaper Visits Increase 27%


The top 10 newspapers in the US collectively saw a 16% year-over-year increase in unique visitors to their websites in 2008, as well as a 27% increase in the total number of overall visits, according to data from Nielsen Online.

The number of unique visitors grew from 34.6 million unique visitors in December 2007 to 40.1 million in December 2008.

NYTimes.com was the #1 online newspaper destination in December 2008, with 18.2 million unique visitors. USATODAY.com and washingtonpost.com took the #2 and #3 spots, with 11.4 million and 9.5 million unique visitors, respectively, Nielsen Online reported.

The New York Daily News online edition experienced the highest growth in unique visitors (99%), while Boston.com was the only online newspaper to experience a decline (-6%).

“Nine of the top 10 newspaper Web sites experienced positive year-over-year growth,” said Chuck Schilling, research director, agency & media, Nielsen Online. “News coverage in December ranged from how the 2008 holiday season would be affected by the weakening economy to Obama’s latest nomination for his administration, all of which helped to drive this impressive growth.”

Online Newspaper Readers Visiting More Frequently

In addition to an increased number of unique visitors to newspaper sites, readers also are frequenting these these web destinations more often than they were a year ago. The number of total visits to the top 10 newspaper sites increased 27% year-over-year, growing from 199.6 million in December 2007 to 252.7 million in December 2008.


“Despite the current troubles for the traditional newspaper industry, people are visiting newspaper sites more and more often to stay on top of current events,” said Schilling. “The challenge for newspaper publishers today is to learn how to capitalize on this active online readership and translate their increasing engagement into revenue.”

NZ BlackBerry sales fall off a cliff; iPhone surge

By Chris Keall | Friday January 30 2009 - 04:09pm

IDC's latest smartphone tracking survey, for the third quarter of 2008, records a dramatic fall in New Zealand sales of RIM BlackBerries, while Apple's 3G iPhone smashed records.

For July to September, IDC tracked 2500 BlackBerries sold onto Telecom and Vodafone's networks, down from 11,600 in the previous quarter.

By contrast, Apple's 3G iPhone, specific to Vodafone, clocked a massive 19,200 sales in its debut appearance in IDC's survey. A Vodafone insider describes the result as easily the telco's best for any smartphone.

T-Mobile Q4 Growth Tumbles Despite Google Phone (GOOG)

from Silicon Alley Insider by 

google-g1.jpgT-Mobile says Q4 subscriber growth slowed despite an exclusive on the G1, Google's (GOOG) first Android-powered phone. T-Mobile signed up 621,000 net new subscribers during Q4, down more than one-third from Q4 2007, when it signed up 951,000 net subscribers.

T-Mobile didn't disclose G1 sales, but said 40% of the phones it sold in Q4 -- to existing and new customers -- were smartphones.

That's good for its average monthly revenue -- smartphone customers are often required to sign up for Internet service plans. But it looks like the G1 hasn't been as strong for T-Mobile as Apple's (AAPL) iPhone has been for AT&T (T), or RIM's (RIMM) BlackBerry Storm for Verizon (VZ).

Morgan Stanley estimates T-Mobile sold 300,000 G1s during Q4.

CLIP TechCrunch's Arrington Says He Might Just Quit, Blames AllThingsD, Valleywag

Silicon Alley Insider by 

michael-arrington-cigar.jpgAfter a stalker forced him to spend $2,000 a day on security last summer and a man spit on him at conference, TechCrunch cofounder Michael Arrington says that he might just quit blogging altogether. Previously, he'd only said he would take a month's leave.

In an interview with the WSJ, Michael said he hasn't decided whether or not he'll come back after February. "I'm going to take a month to think about it,' he said. 'I feel like a load has been taken off."

During the same interview, the top tech blogger blamed rival tech blogs for both the stalker and the spitter.

Specifically, Michael said reporting from Dow Jones's AllThingsD and Gawker Media's semi-shuttered Silicon Valley gossip blog, Valleywag, made him a target for crazy people.

'I think there are crazy people out there, like the guy that threatened to kill me,' he said. 'I just wish that people wouldn't suggest to the crazy people that I'm a good target.'

He said:

"Whoever is the top blog will get attacked by everyone else and that'll just be the way it is. We really need to think about, the community of bloggers, if we're going to continue to slay our own for competitive reasons."

AllThingsD blogger Kara Swisher said being stalked is "scary and disturbing," but that "our site is trying to raise ethical and reporting standards in the tech blogosphere but is in no way responsible for people stalking Michael Arrington."

"To say so is truly unfortunate on his part. I am appalled he is being stalked, which is scary and disturbing, and am sorry for the strife it has clearly caused him and his family."

Gawker owner Nick Denton said the TechCrunch blogger's response to criticism "says more about his emotional volatility than it does about anything more meaningful - like the pressures on tech journalists or Internet publishers.'

(Disclosure: Nicholas Carlson used to write for Valleywag)

Jan 28, 2009

CLIP PopCap Games’ retail revenues up 85 percent in 2008

from VentureBeat by 

PopCap Games said its U.S. retail revenues for PC games were up 85 percent in 2008. The Seattle-based maker of casual games managed to do that in a year when U.S. PC retail game sales fell 14 percent.

The private company doesn’t release sales figures. The results were reported by market research NPD. The biggest part of the growth happened in the fourth quarter thanks to the launch of Bejeweled Twsit, the latest game in PopCap’s huge Bejeweled franchise. PopCap’s games are now sold in 20,000 North American stores.

Bejewled Twist ranked at No. 8 on the best-selling PC titles during the peak December month. Other top sellers in the year were Bejeweled 2, Zuma, Amazing Adventures The Lost Tomb and Mystery P.I. — The Lottery Ticket. PopCap now has 15 titles available at retail, up from 10 in 2007.  Bejeweled has sold more than 25 million copies across all game platforms.

CLIP Yahoo CEO Bartz: “This Is Not A Company That Needs To Be Pulled Apart For The Chickens.”

Yahoo released its fourth quarter 2008 earnings today. Its non-GAAP EPS came in at $0.17 a share, above the $0.13 consensus. (Yahoo lost $0.22 a share on a GAAP basis due to restructuring and impairment charges). Total revenues came in at $1.8 billion, with net revenues (after what Yahoo pays to network partners) coming in at $1.375 billion.

Overall revenues were down one percent. In comparison, Google’s fourth quarter revenues were up 18 percent. Search revenues on Yahoo’s own sites were up 11 percent in the quarter to $436 million, while display advertising revenues was down 2 percent to $506 million. (See chart below). That is pretty much in line with industry trends. Affiliate, listings, and other marketing revenues were also down.

New CEO Carol Bartz finally addressed some questions on everyone’s mind. Addressing Wall Street analysts on the call, she said preemptively before taking questions:

Did I come to Yahoo to sell the company? No. . . . Am I planning on immediately selling the search business? I did not come here with preconceived notions. It is very easy from the outside to have preconceived notions of what Yahoo should do. Now as an insider and CEO it is my job and responsibility to do what is best for customers, shareholders, and employees.

Later on in the call she reiterated:

This is not a company that needs to be pulled apart for the chickens.

Asked about rumors that Yahoo has been meeting with Microsoft, she replied:

We don’t have comments on press reports that come from nowhere.

That would be a reference to Valleywag.

She is basically signaling to investors that they should let her do her job. Her general message on the call is that outsiders cannot really know what is the best course of action for Yahoo. Fair enough. She has only been on the job for eight days. But she also isn’t communicating where she wants to take the company. What’s the plan, Carol?

Crunch NetworkCrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

STATS Report: Click Fraud At Record High

17.1% of all clickthroughs on web advertising are the result of click fraud - the act of clicking on a web ad to artificially increase its click-through rate - according to the latest report from Click Forensics, a company that specializes in monitoring and preventing internet crime. The level of clickfraud is the highest the company has seen since it started monitoring for it in 2006, dashing our hopes that it might hold steady in 2008. The company recorded a rate of 16.3% in Q1 2008.

Also alarming is the fact that over 30% of click fraud is now coming from automated bots - a 14% increase from last quarter and the highest rate Click Forensics has seen since it started collecting data. Click fraud for ads on content networks like Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network was up to 28.2% from 27.1% last quarter, though that figure has decreased since Q4 2007, when it was at 28.3%. Outside of the US, Click Forensics reports that the most click fraud came from Canada (which contributed 7.4%), Germany (3%), and China (2.3%).

Click Forensics also notes that it has seen a reemergence with some old-hat tricks, like link farms. The company speculates that the increase may be tied to the poor economy, which has spurred a rise in activity like phishing and other cybercrime.

Ed: Add the percentage for accidental clicks and habitual clicks, the ROI for CPC may be severely inflated.

The Time is Right to Kill Google (If They Don’t Kill Themselves First) - Fees for Customer Service

from louisgray.com by 

Guest Post By Matt Dickman of Techno//Marketer (FriendFeed/Twitter)

In your opinion, what is Google’s differentiator as a company? Can you remember when you switched from Yahoo! to the new, fresh upstart Google? For me, it was seamless. One day I woke up and was just using it. I do, however, remember why I started using it. Google put users at the center of their business. They added value to the search experience by cleaning up the interface and presenting information in a clean, concise manner. They learned early that search was a replacement for the directory-based engine that Yahoo (still) hangs on to, not a supplement. 

For the past two years I have written a blog post about the ways that Google attaches itself to my life on a daily basis (here is last year’s version). I’ve welcomed this life-integration with the company because I felt they were adding value. They weren’t doing any evil. 

Lately, however I’ve felt a disturbance in the force. I still use all of the same Google products that I mentioned in the post, but something had changed. The company that innovated search by focusing on the user has lost its focus on the user. Here are two examples that you may, or may not, have noticed and I welcome your feedback.

First, Friend Connect. *sigh* This really was my tipping point with Google. (You’ll notice there are common threads between this example and the next one.) Back in mid-December I came across a blog post on this new Google platform extension. On the surface, I liked the idea. Everyone with a Google profile (most of us) could join the site and engage with each other through what Google calls “social gadgets”. My plan was to add ratings at the end of each post, however I ran (and continue to run) into a problem. 

The initial set up was cake. I added the community widget to the side of my blog and waited for people to join. 

My initial experience with that module was poor. The invite function wouldn’t let me add new users. Actually, I just checked and it still won’t. Worse yet when I tried to invite my friends and the page gave me the error, something weird happened. All of my Gmail chat contacts disappeared. My Google reader contacts as well. Not cool. I’ve been rebuilding this over time, but some people I have been permanently severed from. To add fuel to the fire, when I try to add the social widget to the post, I get the image below where the widget should be. I have everything set up right, it just doesn’t work. 

You would think that, upon launching a new platform extension, Google would be all over the support site. Not the case. From when I submitted my post to the next Google rep to answer any questions was about three weeks (and they didn’t answer my question). 

Scenario #2, FeedBurner. I think the entire blogosphere has a love/hate relationship with this service. From the time Google acquired the Chicago company until now it has been a rollercoaster.FeedBurner started out with a narrow focus and they executed well. Google acquired them to extend their advertising/analytics offering. However, subscriber stats would often fluctuate wildly, dropping to zero on some days, bouncing back if you were lucky. Google always claimed that they were “working on it”, but I didn’t believe it until a while back when I saw that they were transitioning to the Google platform. 

In theory, this is a good thing. More scale, more stability, more happy people. Wrong. The transition was not explained well and I saw a wave of panic slowly crushing the blogosphere. A couple of us took the plunge and made the move (I even recorded a video to help people understand the process). In the process, my subscribers dropped by half. No explanation. Hundreds of posts to the support forum and no replies from Google. My stats did bounce back, but the service’s reputation is shaky now. People use this as a key metric, companies track it and people get paid based on it. Sadly there is no alternative (yet). 

Google has lost sight of the user. They have neglected us for too long, concentrating instead on advertising. I get that it is their lifeblood, but what good is an ad that nobody sees because you alienate your community. I think that a company that attacks with the right mission and focus on users could make a dent in Google’s armor. Killer customer service powered by social platforms could allow a new set of players to emerge.

I would love to get your take on this. Have you seen the same trend? What would you do if you were Google to stand up and put your foot down?

Read more by Matt Dickman at Techno//Marketer.

Ed: Google Apps wants to charge fees for service. Yahoo has made slow progress with fee-based services. For both companies, they have a culture to avoid direct interaction with millions of users. Tough to switch to fee-based without a fundamental change in attitude. 

Jan 27, 2009

CLIP Microsoft’s IE8 Release Candidate Is Live; Nearly Identical To Final Release

Microsoft has just pushed live its Release Candidate for Internet Explorer 8, the latest update to the world’s most widely used web browser. You can download it here. Unfortunately the release is only for Windows Vista, XP, and Server - if you’re trying out Windows 7 you’ll have to wait for the next OS update to try out the RC.

The new version, which comes after two public beta releases, is now considered “platform complete” - the product is “effectively complete and done” writes IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch. Unless there are major critical issues that arise, the final version of the browser should be identical. Other changes between Beta 2 and the Release Candidate include improved reliability, performance, and compatibility, as well as ‘clickjacking‘ protection.

In his blog post detailing the release, Hachamovitch writes that IE8 is focused on “how people really use the web”, explaining that while many of the people who are interested in Release Candidates and technology blogs may be interested in details and performance issues, most people are concerned with usability and an intuitive experience.

We sat down with Hachamovitch earlier this month and he showed us a number of the new features that are being incorporated into IE8 to reflect this emphasis on usability (note that these have been known about for some time, but may not be common knowledge for those who don’t follow IE’s beta schedule). Among my favorite is the ability to see a list of your recently closed tabs whenever you open a browser window, which makes it easy to reopen pages that you may have accidentally closed without having to resort to your web history. Also new are Accelerators, which let you act on snippits of text using shortcuts found under the right-click menu (for example, you could right click on an address and look it up on Live Maps).

And of course, the browser’s new “porn mode” (dubbed InPrivate), which lets users browse the web without having to worry about leaving any history or cookies behind. Apple’s Safari offers a similar feature, though I like the execution of InPrivate better - it has strong visual indicators to let you know when you’re in the private mode, while Safari just has a check mark under a menu listing.

Trinity Mirror joins the social media revolution

Posted by Lauren Drablier on January 27, 2009 at 10:02 AM
Trinity Mirror has joined other media organizations and newspapers in the social media revolution by introducing new interactive tools to its websites in collaboration with social media firm Pluck.  The tools will be incorporated using APIs and widgets, Journalism.co.uk reports.

According to David Black, Trinity Mirror's group director of digital publishing, "Our strategy is all about building a really engaged online audience. We see interactivity as absolutely critical to improving the experience we offer to our users." 
Pluck's features will appear on Mirror.co.ukSunday Mail and Daily RecordLiverpool EchoCoventry Telegraph and Gazette Live websites.  

More additions planned for later this year are individual profiles and the implementation of user comments.

About Pluck

A leader in social media software solutions, Pluck helps transform how publishers, retailers and major brands engage their audiences and customers to discover, create and distribute content online. Providing the technologies for content generation, syndication and social networking, Pluck helps its customers more easily consume and leverage the new open content model that has emerged as the cornerstone of interactivity online.

Jan 26, 2009

Press agencies refuse to distribute Obama photos

Posted by Bhamini .N on January 26, 2009 at 9:29 AM
One of the things that President Barack Obama promised during his campaign is change. And he seems to be keeping his promise. 

Breaking a long-standing tradition, the White House refused to allow photographers to take pictures of the new President in the Oval office, on his first day. A result of which, three press agencies, namely, The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse refused to distribute photographs that were provided by the White House. 

Michael Oreskes, managing editor for U.S news at AP, said that they hope to negotiate an amicable solution, after emails and phone messages were not replied to by Obama's representatives. 
Ed: End to agencies. Why are they needed?

10 Reasons Why This Is A Great Time To Invest In Innovation

This is a great time to invest in innovation:

- The next big thing always comes out of downturns.

- It is easier to find great people.

- Salaries are lower.

- Office space and other resources are more plentiful and less expensive.

- Capital startup costs are lower.

- IT costs are lower thanks to cloud computing and web services.

- Programming languages and development tools of various kinds are simpler and more powerful.

- Marketing costs are lower (if done right).

- Work can be virtualized across time zones and regions.

- Most importantly: As bad as this recession will get, the upturn that follows will be even larger.

The next upturn will be led by what I call New Rules Enterprises, these are organizations that are highly efficient and have made the most of the economies of Internet 2.0. More on this in future posts.

Jan 25, 2009

Unify Behind Obama - Reduce Perceived Risk - Accelerate Growth

Despite the negative economy, I'm been optimistic about the trends. Here's why.

What's the Problem?

What caused the dominos of the downturn in 2008.
  • Rapid rise of oil prices
  • Upsetting over-leveraged financial markets
  • Incompetent president
  • Problems accelerated by the contentious election, zealous pundits, and chicken-little forecasters
  • Viral web that instantly spreads the word among billions
  • Loss of confidence
  • High perceived risks
What's Happened?
  • Oil prices declined rapidly, a first in economic history
  • Interest rates reversing, following admission by the Fed that they made the wrong call on inflation
  • Food and product prices will follow the downward trend with a lag
  • Global financial markets gaining trillions of aid
  • Incompetence removed
  • More stimulus coming
The remaining, primary problem is global uncertainty among businesses, consumers, and policy makers. 

The Good News

Obama is the right choice.
  • He's smart, pragmatic.
  • Pundits, politicians, and comedians can't attack him personally. It's politically wrong to do so.
  • He has global appeal.
  • We'll see more unity.
Unification reduces uncertainty and perceived risk - leading to growth and financial gains.

The global web can change the positive sentiment as quickly as it spread the negative views - much faster than newspapers in 1929, or TV and radio during other crisis. 


Americans agonize over the policy choices. Politicians move even slower. It's more important, today, to move in one-direction. 

What do you think?

CLIP Microsoft’s Chris Early, head of Games for Windows Live, among the layoffs

The fallout from the layoffs announced by Microsoft on Thursday continues: Among the casualties is Chris Early, general manager of Games for Windows Live, the online gaming service for gamers who play on personal computers.

The division launched its service about 20 months ago and created a new user interface for it in November. I haven’t reached Microsoft or Early for comment, but an email bounce-back says that Early’s time at Microsoft “has come to a close.” I suspect more well-known managers will exit now there are fewer people to manage.

I met with Early back then and he was a stout defender of Games for Windows. That group has taken its share of hits in the 1,400 layoffs announced so far. Like most Microsoft divisions, it will also likely take its share of the 5,000 cutbacks coming over the next 18 months.

You have to wonder. With the Xbox 360 games getting the big budgets and Games for Windows just chugging along, will Microsoft keep investing heavily in its Games for Windows branding and services? Microsoft has been heading toward a Valve Steam-like game downloading service. But it hasn’t yet implemented that. Games for Windows Live is a free counterpart to the Microsoft Xbox Live online gaming service on the console.

Players use it to access to their own gamertag, or single identity, and data like game achievements. They can also use the system for voice and text chat and finding other players to play in online multiplayer games.

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