Windows Live Software Suite Due This Week

Microsoft is preparing to release a new suite of applications under the Windows Live umbrella, further upping the ante in its battle to fend up growing competition from the likes of Google and Yahoo. The effort is the next step in Microsoft's transition to software-plus-services.

While its rivals focus on Web-only applications, Microsoft sees a future where desktop programs simply interact with services on the Web. Windows Live will serve as the backbone upon which this shift relies. Desktop search will mesh with Web search, mail clients will link up with Webmail services, and photo applications will integrate online publishing and sharing.

But Microsoft has done a poor job of branding and marketing Windows Live up to this point, which is where the new unified Windows Live package comes in. The software, which will be available for Windows Vista users, includes Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Mail Desktop, Windows Live Messenger 8.5 and Windows Live OneCare Family Safety.

The New York Times reports that Silverlight -- Microsoft's Flash rival -- will not be included in the first "Windows Live 1.0" release, although that could change in forthcoming updates. It's not clear if Windows Live Folders and Windows Live Writer will be part of the initial suite.

In June, Microsoft promised some big announcements surrounding Windows Live at the end of the summer, but with Labor Day past us, the oft-promised "integrated experience" is still nowhere to be found. While a single Windows Live software download may help this situation slightly, it likely won't be of much concern to Google or Yahoo, which have dominated the so-called second generation of Web services.

"To win today, Microsoft must offer compelling services that appeal to users, not simply roll up a bunch of me-too services in new pretty packaging," remarked Silicon Valley watcher Michael Arrington on his blog. "Microsoft's competitors will not, in my opinion, be scrambling to address this most recent volley from the Empire from Redmond."

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