Microsoft Releases Suite of Windows Live Software

As expected, Microsoft on Wednesday released its Windows Live software suite, including the global betas of several of its desktop products.

Among the applications included are Windows Live Photo Gallery, Mail, Messenger, Writer, OneCare Family Safety, and Toolbar. The unified installer for the product also acts as a central location to download updates to any program once it is installed.

Evidence that Microsoft was preparing to make a major push with its Windows Live services first appeared on Tuesday, with the New York Times reporting that the unified application was close to reality.

Microsoft had promised to make some major announcements surrounding its Live platform during the summer, however they never materialized. The Redmond company is still playing catchup to other Internet giants like Google and Yahoo, which so far have been the standard-bearers for the so-called Web 2.0 movement.

"These applications bridge the gap between the Windows Vista PC and the Windows Live web services," Brandon LeBlanc wrote for the official Windows Vista blog. "Overall, the Windows Live suite is designed to extend your Windows experience by tapping into Windows Live. Of course choice comes with the Windows Live Suite as well."

Windows Live Mail users can check any POP or IMAP account, LeBlanc added, along with using Windows Live Writer for a variety of blogging services.

The release of the unified installer also marks the first time the Windows Live Photo Gallery application is made available to the public. Users can share pictures and videos on Spaces and Soapbox; and the application automatically arranges photos by events, much like the new version of Apple's iPhoto.

Other features include automatic stitching of panoramic photos, improved photo editing tools, and the ability to view Quicktime files in the Gallery viewer.

The Windows Live Mail beta builds on previous versions by adding new formatting abilities, and tweaks to performance. Performance is also improved in Messenger, along with family safety integration and security enhancements.

Windows Live Writer is seeing the most changes, with an expansion to 32 languages, and 55 countries. The new version makes it easy to upload video from a host of video services into an entry, as well as new formatting options. Image upload to Blogger has also been added.

"Together with our web services, we have a complete suite that combines the best of the Web and the best of Windows, and works the way you want," Windows Live Team vice president Chris Jones said in a Web log post.

The unified installer is available for download from the Windows Live Web site.

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