Microsoft to Developers: Experiment a Little

The Redmond software maker is building an "Experimentation Platform" where it will allow Microsoft and third-party developers to test new Live-based services before rolling them out.

Microsoft is building a Web site designed to allow Microsoft product groups—and, later, third-party software developers—to test new Live features and services in a controlled environment.

The new site, known as the Windows Live Experimentation Platform, went live April 20. The site is running on top of Office Live, a set of service extensions to Microsoft Office that Microsoft released to beta testers earlier this year.

The Live Experimentation Platform is Microsofts latest move toward making Windows Live not just a collection of services, but a developer platform in its own right.

/zimages/2/28571.gifIs Windows Live Microsofts antitrust savior? Click here to read Mary Jo Foleys column.

Microsoft rivals Google, Yahoo, Amazon and eBay all are embarking on similar strategies, by exposing more services as open application programming interfaces and encouraging developers to build mashups, composite applications, and other consumer and business software atop their respective platforms.

Microsoft already uses beta and Community Technology Preview programs to test new products and features. The company relies on a variety of other test mechanisms, from GotDotNet sandboxes to online forums to Watson crash-analysis feedback, to gather information from potential customers about what they like and dont like in existing and as-yet-unreleased products.

According to information on Microsofts Live Experimentation Platform site, the Windows Live team believes it can speed and hone testing further using a combination of controlled experiments and a scientific method for establishing causality between a feature and its effects—a concept known as "randomized experimental design."

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