Today, Microsoft's MIX07 conference--a "72 hour conversation" with Web developers, as the company puts it--opened in Las Vegas. Two years ago, MIX was the setting for Microsoft's unexpected Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 announcement. This year, Microsoft will apparently push its visions for its Web services and release a beta version of Silverlight, the company's cross-platform, cross-browser animation and video plug-in.

Two years ago, Microsoft announced IE 7.0 in an attempt to shore up eroding support for IE, which was losing market share and mind share to Mozilla's Firefox, although still dominating the Web browser market. IE is gaining market share once again now that IE 7.0 is available for Windows Vista and previous Windows versions, so Microsoft is turning its attention to another Web-related area in which the company is faltering. Unfortunately for Microsoft, that's just about everywhere on the Web.

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie is at MIX to talk about changes in the company's "software plus services" strategy in which Microsoft will augment--rather than replace--functionality in its dominant Windows, Microsoft Office, and server product lines. This strategy sharply contrasts that of Google, which doesn't offer traditional software products. Instead, Google's solutions are almost entirely Web-based and often platform agnostic.

Microsoft is trying to compete with Google, and some of the software giant's Web services--most notably Windows Live Hotmail--are quite popular. However, Microsoft's Live.com search engine and associated advertising efforts have faltered in the market as users turn increasingly to Google's services.

Microsoft is also competing with companies that make the creative products that designers and developers use to publish content online, such as Adobe Systems. So far, Microsoft's designer- and developer-oriented efforts have done well in enterprises that use Microsoft products, but have had little impact in the wider world. Currently, the most popular Web frameworks are decidedly non-Microsoft. Silverlight is the company's latest attempt to popularize its online developer technologies.