Microsoft Preps Answer to Google Pack

Microsoft's latest Windows Live offering is for the most part not a new service at all, but rather a one-time download that includes a subset of the available Live applications, much like the Google Pack.

Called Windows Live Essentials, the program also features a new application called Windows Live Dashboard. The Dashboard would show the user what Live programs are installed and what is available for download, rather than requiring the user to visit the Windows Live Ideas Web site.

Although it was not detailed, the new application seems to be optimized at this time for Windows XP SP2 using Internet Explorer 6.x. At least two programs are slated to come with the download, Windows Live Messenger and Live Mail Desktop beta, although it is likely that other applications would be included as well.

Novice computer users seem to be the target of this latest service. "While the product won't necessarily be used by the more technically advanced users, especially those in the betas, it will no doubt benefit the vast majority," Windows Live blogger Chris Overd wrote for

"Essentials also has some pluses for Microsoft," he continued. "Smaller Windows Live products can take advantage of increased exposure and applications are more likely to stay current. There is also the 'small' benefit of getting Windows Live products preinstalled on Vista machines via OEMs, as Google have done recently with their toolbar."

Currently, the Windows Live Ideas site shows six services out of beta: Windows Live Messenger, Favorites, Expo, OneCare, Custom Domains, and Toolbar. 11 other services are in beta, not including functionality to integrate the messaging networks of Microsoft and Yahoo.

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