Microsoft Has Confused Its Online Users

If its buyout bid succeeds, the software giant won't be able to resist messing with Yahoo!

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As a fan of Yahoo! I'm bracing for more online confusion if Microsoft succeeds in buying the company.

In its latest Web floundering, Microsoft seems to be throwing the "Live" brand around willy-nilly. As described by Preston Galla at the ComputerWorld blog: "There are too many 'Live' products to count—Windows Live (which has nothing to do with Windows) and Microsoft Office Live Small Business (which has nothing to do with Microsoft Office) among them."

It has left me bewildered. The switch, for example, from MSN Search to "Live Search" only seemed to sap whatever strength Microsoft had built in the MSN portal. The "Live" approach hasn't succeeded and is another reason to think a Microsoft-Yahoo! merger won't bring down Google.

Now, in their defense, Microsoft executives suggest they'll keep Yahoo! safe. "We love the Yahoo! brand," one said this morning. But Microsoft is not a hands-off company. It will muck with Yahoo!'s properties, and we'll struggle to understand it all.

Just imagine: "Yahoo! Live!"