Windows Live Gadgets

Microsoft will offer three tiers of partner support for Windows Live Gallery according to a podcast with Chris Butler this week posted on LiveSide. Companies and brands may partner with Microsoft to highlight their Windows Live Gadget offerings for preferred inclusion in the personal homepage, Windows Live Spaces sidebar, and the Windows Vista sidebar.

Windows Live Gallery partners receive visual differentiation in the customization listings and programmatic access to the Gallery serves to add and update new Microsoft gadget content.

Microsoft plans to offer external developers three tiers of support:

Gold partner
A premium offering associated with an established business relationship with Microsoft.
Silver partner
The most popular content in the Windows Live Gallery. Content enhancing the platform and elevated based on merit.
Regular contributor
Standard approved submissions to the Gallery.

I believe visual differentiation of official widget providers is an important step towards improving user experience and gaining trust in the widget environment. Brands are currently monetized by third parties motivated by goodwill or affiliate programs, and partner programs are a good way to differentiate official content from third-party submissions.

Widget publishers can also differentiate themselves from the pack by using official brand and trademark names in a widget directory’s author fields and promoting their widget content directly on their sites.