Microsoft’s next generation of Windows Live will see the company collaborate with leading Web 2.0 companies Flickr, LinkedIn, Pandora Media, Photobucket, Twitter, WordPress and Yelp in a strategy that will polarise the internet between pro-Microsoft and pro-Google players.
As part of the strategy, Microsoft has struck deals with more than 50 third-party software players to make it easier for users to share photos, update profiles, write reviews and automatically publish these activities to their Windows Live network.
For many of the tools offered by these companies, like Word Press and Flickr, Google already has corresponding products such as Blogger and Picasa.
The new Windows Live will feature new social features including a ‘what’s new’ feed of activities, on-the-go-access from any device with Windows Live SkyDrive, and online storage for users is increasing from 5GB to 25GB.
The move by Microsoft forms part of a new strategy to make Windows Live a core hub for internet use via PCs, phones and other devices.
Microsoft already has more than 460 million Windows Live customers worldwide, and the new generation of Windows Live will see enhancements to services like email, instant messaging and greater collaboration with third-party sites for free, downloadable software.
The company said the aim is to make it easier for people to manage and enjoy digital content scattered across their PCs, as well as the internet at large.
At the heart of this, Microsoft envisions, will be Windows Live. It is the first stage in a strategy that the company hopes will loosen the glue that is Google’s current array of internet services.
“Think of Windows Live as the single place where people using our email, 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 optimised experiences on the PC and mobile phone,” Jones said.
Under the new strategy, Windows Live Messenger, which is used by more than 350 million people worldwide, will feature more social features like a ‘what’s new’ feed, and users can drag and drop photos into the conversation window.
Windows Live Hotmail, used by 375 million people worldwide, will be made faster and will have 80pc more effective spam filtering than before.
Windows Live Groups will make it easier for users to collaborate and work online, featuring a shared calendar, shared storage, shared email and shared instant messaging.
“Microsoft’s Windows Live is an exciting new platform that enables new experiences for both Photobucket and Microsoft users that would not otherwise be possible,” said Alex Welch, president of Photobucket.
“Online photo sharing is an important part of people’s everyday lives and, as the leading standalone photo and video-sharing website, Photobucket is thrilled to be teaming up with Windows Live to make this experience even easier for users.”
In addition to partnering with leading web companies, Microsoft announced alliances with HP and China Telecom Corporation to deliver Windows Live services to more people across the world.
HP will distribute Windows Live Photo Gallery with its consumer printers, including Photosmart and Deskjet lines, starting next year. The combined offer provides HP customers with Windows Live Photo Gallery, an end-to-end photo management and printing solution.
“Beginning in 2009, HP will feature Windows Live Photo Gallery and HP Creative Print Projects across the HP Photosmart and HP Deskjet consumer printing portfolios,” said Sam Greenblatt, general manager of Core Technologies, Imaging and Printing Group, at HP.
“This offering will allow users to print, share, organise and edit a wide array of creative print projects at home, such as photo books, collages, cards and calendars,” Greenblatt said.
By John Kennedy