Microsoft has launched its “next generation” of Windows Live services, a collection of free applications and utilities that enable Windows users to easily communicate with friends and family, manage their time, and share files from anywhere they have access to the Web.
“Today we take a significant step forward in helping consumers simplify their digital lives,” said Microsoft’s VP of Windows Live Experience Program Management, Chris Jones, in a statement. “With over 400 million customers using the service today, we have a real opportunity to help consumers connect their online experiences, devices and networks in new and powerful ways.”
Microsoft first released a beta version of the new services in September; the new offering collects the components together into a single download users can easily install. In addition to Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Messenger, key elements of the new Windows Live services include:
- Windows Live Mail, a desktop application that can aggregate Hotmail accounts with services like Gmail and AOL, combining contact lists and offering access from a mobile phone. Users can also get a “live.com” email address.
- Windows Live Photo Gallery, a new application that enables users to find, share, and organize their photos and videos. It also handles uploading images to services like Flickr and (naturally) Microsoft’s own Windows Live Spaces, Soapbox, and MSN Video.
- Windows Live Events, an event planning and “community-building” application.
- Windows Live Writer, an online WYSIWYG editor for publishing content to Windows Live Spaces and other blogging services.
- Windows Live Mobile, offering phone-based or browser-based access to to Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Spaces, and other services.
- Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, with tools to help block content and contacts parents deem inappropriate.
Taken together, the Windows Live services embody Microsoft’s “software plus services” strategy, in which the company combined Windows-based desktop software with online services to provide both a fast-responding experience with a “native” look-and-feel (and which leverages their operating systems’ technologies) with online-based services which expand the functionality and features of the software. The approach walks a line between traditional desktop software and online-only applications, such as those offered by Internet titan Google. On one hand, Microsoft’s approach offers the experience of a desktop application, but, on the other hand, customers who don’t use Windows—or who don’t want to download software—need not apply.
To celebrate the launch of the new Windows Live Services, Microsoft has partnered with Operation Smile and has pledged to donate a portion of ad revenue derived from Windows Live services in November to the charity.