.NET consumer services delivered by Microsoft: first impressions

I used to track stocks on MyYahoo, but I’m no longer spending any time there since I don’t use Yahoo Mail anymore. The rest of MyYahoo is not that compelling to me, unless I take into account calendaring and contacts which I only need while I’m not on my own PC.
So to get my stock quotes during the last few months, I’ve been using the MSN Money tab you can add to Windows Messenger, and it’s a mixed track record at best:

  • Alerts are fun. You can set them up based on big price moves, and that’s just the kind of multitask-friendly push features I’ve been saying IM would be great for.
  • It’s convenient, quick and lightweight. You don’t need to fire up your browser, log on and all, just click on the tab and your stock trades are automatically refreshed (or supposedly so, see below.) Of course, that’s if you accept to get a Passport account and if you run Messenger in the background (a likely scenario since IM is the always-on background task among all).
  • It’s a closed service. I understand the ticker symbols take you to MSN Money, since it’s them who provide this frontend. But why not let me change the quote provider? I don’t need your free 20-minute delayed quotes provided by Micropal Ltd. Just let me plug the free real-time quotes provided by my broker TDWaterhouse. I know I can tap them from the outside of TDW’s site, as I’ve experimented with QuoteTracker. Ain’t the ability to mix-and-match the whole point of web services? This very fact defeats the purpose of alerts, since you could really act on them only if you got them in synch with the market ("Alert, a fire has started 20 minutes ago! Er, dude, I’m just a little pile of ashes by now.")
  • It’s often unavailable, and this is not planned maintenance since it happens while the market is open (no, they can’t be that clueless, can they?) Come on, if your web site was half as often on the brink, you’d be derided on the front page of news.com. Don’t expect me to convert to a paying premium service if that’s what I get used to getting from you. I’m going to put a spy on this page to see whether they’re at least honest about their QoS.
  • Moronic regional settings forced on the user. I use a US version of Windows XP, but Messenger defaulted me to their French MSN service, probably based on my regional settings. MSN France is vastly inferior in features and content to what’s available from the main US site. Talk about cluelessly trying to make good decisions for the user (and I couldn’t find any way to change that behavior). Listen, If I happen to buy the New York Times in a French newstand, it doesn’t mean I want you to translate it for me, and remove all the pictures in the process, ok?

Overall, this service is a good idea but the current implementation feels more like a demo than anything else. But it’s probably what it’s meant to be, since it’s free of ad or fee.

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