Microsoft Corp. has today announced a new version of Windows Live. Think of it as Windows Live: The Next Generation if you will. Not that Microsoft is calling it that, or anything else for that matter. The press release just refers to "an integrated set of online services that make it easier and more fun for consumers to communicate and share with the people they care about most" which sounds pretty much like the old Windows Live.
Of course, this new generation of Windows Live comes with some extras.
There are updates for photo sharing, e-mail, instant messaging, as well as integration with multiple third-party sites. But perhaps the most interesting new addition has to be the inclusion of Windows Live Essentials. Billed as free downloadable software that enhances consumers' Windows experience by helping them simplify and enjoy digital content scattered across their PC, phone and on Web sites. Microsoft told me it is "a suite of applications for communication and sharing that also works with leading e-mail, photo and blogging services worldwide."
Working with Windows Live Essentials, the upgraded service will include:
New social features including an updated profile, a "what's new" feed of activities across the network and Web, photo sharing, and on-the-go access from virtually any device with Windows Live SkyDrive. Online storage is increasing from 5 GB to 25 GB.
Updated Windows Live Messenger, to include more personalization, a "what's new" feed with updates from contacts across the Web, drag-and-drop photo sharing in the conversation window, a favourites list to designate the most important contacts, and group IM to chat simultaneously with up to 20 people at the same time.
Updated Windows Live Hotmail, which will be much faster and has 80 percent more effective spam filtering compared with previous versions of Hotmail. Upcoming changes include the ability to bring multiple e-mail accounts together, the ability to put multiple e-mail addresses onto almost any device, increased storage, and a revamped calendar that makes it easier to share calendars with others, subscribe to multiple calendars and use your calendar with Microsoft Outlook.
And Windows Live Groups, a place for groups to collaborate online, includes a shared calendar, shared storage, a shared e-mail address, and shared instant messaging.
"Think of Windows Live as the single place where people using e-mail, messaging and photo-sharing services can stay connected," said Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Windows Live Experience Program Management at Microsoft. "Our customers have friends across the Web. They communicate through many unconnected Web services and want access to it all from a single location - without worrying about how it's done. Now Windows Live takes care of that, with an integrated personal communication service that works across the Web with optimized experiences on the PC and mobile phone."
Windows Live: The Next Generation will roll out to customers in the U.S. over the coming weeks and will be made available globally in 54 countries and in 48 languages by early 2009.