What's going on at Microsoft these days? Is Ray Ozzie's Web 2.0 mantra really that effective? Let me explain. First, the company that somehow misjudged the Web's emergence mid-1990s comes out with a solid blog publishing tool – Windows Live Writer – and now it launches an impressive RSS reader called Max (the software, which is a chunky 54MB can be downloaded here). Unlike many RSS readers, Max has a newspaper-like interface that makes it easy to look at multiple blog posts at the same time (complete with graphics and images). As a loyal FeedBurner user and Microsoft-alternative seeker, I'm loathe to admit Max is a pretty tempting alternative. In particular, I reallly like the look and feel, although it may not be a tool for someone who reads dozens of blogs given the “panel” on the left side of Max only lets 10 feeds appear (I'm not sure if the list expands if you add more than 10 feeds) Despite my initial enthusiasm, Max has some holes. First, you have to become a Passport member to get Max to work. It's not a cumbersome exercise but it may make people normally uneasy about Microsoft software a little uneasy. Second, there doesn't seem to be a way to import OPML files, which makes it difficult to migrate from FeedBurner, Bloglines, Pluck, etc. Max also seems to require RSS feeds to add a blog, even though it suggest all you need is a URL. The Universal Desktop has a glowing review, Scoble is positively giddy while TechCrunch says Max is “beautiful”.
Update: Rick Segal weighs in with some perspective on Max and Microsoft's strategic thinking.