Click on the graphic for a larger view of Live Services
Microsoft says its long-awaited 'Wave 3' of Windows Live Services will begin to be delivered worldwide over the next few weeks.
The release aims to provide Windows Live users with a set of updated as well as new services, with the intention to provide better integration between Live services and other Web sites particularly social networking sites.
To that end, Microsoft is providing links to more than 50 other Web sites, including Flickr, LinkedIn, Pandora, Photobucket, Twitter, WordPress and Yelp, the company said in a statement. The idea is to enable users to aggregate feeds from third-party social networking sites into Live services.
"You've got all these social networks, but why go to every single site when you can get them aggregated?" said Matt Rosoff, analyst at Directions on Microsoft.
Notably missing, however, are two key social network players Facebook and MySpace. That's a significant shortcoming, given that those two companies are the largest of the genre, said Rosoff.
One of the most significant parts of the announcement, according to Rosoff, is something very simple but easily quantifiable. Live SkyDrive, Microsoft's password protected online storage service has expanded the amount of free storage for Windows Live users by five-fold.
"Increasing storage on SkyDrive from 5 GB to 25 GB is pretty amazing," Rosoff said. The expansion means that more users can take advantage of Live SkyDrive for online backup. "I still have a 25 GB hard drive at home," he added.
But Wait, There's More
Microsoft is also releasing several other new and updated services under the rubric of Live Services Wave 3 as well. These include Windows Live Photos, listed as a "comprehensive photo sharing and managing service." Overall, though, many of the new and updated offerings are centered on making Windows Live the home page for all of a users' communications.
"Think of Windows Live as the single place where people using our e-mail, messaging and photo-sharing services can stay connected," Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Windows Live experience program management, said in a statement. That's a key component of Microsoft's long-term strategy.
"This is much more around making [Windows Live] the communications hub, bringing all these things together on the home page," said Charlene Li, industry analyst and founder of Altimeter Group. To that end, Microsoft is also preparing to deliver new organization-oriented services such as Windows Live Profile, People, and Groups.
"It's their effort to make the portal more relevant. It's a move in the right direction," Li said.
In other changes, Windows Live Messenger adds the ability to have instant messaging chats with up to 20 people at once, and Live Hotmail adds the capability to pull together mail from multiple e-mail accounts.
Microsoft also announced alliances with HP and China Telecom. HP, for instance, will bundle Windows Live Photo Gallery with its Photosmart and Desktjet consumer printers beginning next year. For its part, China Telecom will provide a co-branded version of the updated Windows Live Messenger to its Internet services subscribers.
Microsoft will begin providing the Wave 3 services to the U.S. in coming weeks and plans to roll them out to customers in 54 nations and in 48 languages by early 2009, the company said. The updated and new products will be available at the Windows Live site.
Adapted from Internetnews.com.
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