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August 24, 2006

Windows Live buzz – August 24, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 1:50 PM ET.

According to Techlog, a beta of Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi has opened for selected beta testers of Office 2007. The Center offers a Wi-Fi client that helps the user identify and connect to local Wi-Fi networks and a HotSpot Locator (HSL) Web site that provides a searchable list of public hotspots.

Required Hardware / Software: Operating System – Windows XP, (Vista compatibility be added with RC1, currently scheduled for September 2006) and access to wireless hotspots. Note: the WLCC Wi-Fi Suite Beta will not run on handheld devices such as Pocket PCs or BlackBerries.

The Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi Suite beta will begin August 22, 2006 and continue through early 2007.

All this is swell, but it’s not clear what Microsoft is really bringing to the table. The client really isn’t an online (i.e. “Live”) application since it installs on the user’s PC and every maker of Wi-FI adapters already ships a client with similar functionality which contends with the native Windows support for control of Wi-Fi configuration. If Microsoft wanted to spiff it up, why not just spiff up the operating system support instead of adding a 3rd player to the mix?

As for the HSL Web site, a search on your favorite search engine for “Wi-Fi hotspots” will yield an number of Web sites that provide equivalent functionality as well, including the mapping that HSL gets with a tie to Windows Live Local.

Meanwhile, the curtain was lifted a little bit on Windows Live Drive:

Microsoft has confirmed further details of its forthcoming Live Drive service, which will offer free online storage that can be mapped directly from PCs running the forthcoming Vista operating system.

Speaking at a blogger’s breakfast prior to the opening of Tech Ed in Sydney, Microsoft Australia technical specialist John Hodgson said that the basic Live Drive was likely to include around 2G of storage for free. Additional storage capacity would be available for purchase, though pricing schemes and final release dates haven’t been announced.

Hopefully, this was some sort of miscommunication as there is no obvious reason why Live Drive, unlike current competitors in online storage (e.g. Xdrive, which is offering 5GB free), should be saddled with a Vista only restriction for drive mapping.

Finally, there was an interesting beta of the Windows Live Contacts Gadget which:

… enables end users to use their Windows Live contacts (from Windows Live Mail/Hotmail and Messenger) with third party (non-Microsoft) web sites, conveniently and securely. The gadget works with any web server, most browsers, and doesn’t require reams of license or partnership paperwork with Microsoft. You don’t have to assimilate your web server into the Microsoft collective in order to play with Windows Live contact data.

Very clever! There are more details by following the link, but I have to reiterate my caveat from when Windows Live Contacts was first announced: Windows Live Contacts is just one of many places where users can and will store contact information. Thereby, the utility of the gadget is limited and probably always will be as application developers within and without Microsoft resist giving up control of “their” contacts.

Update: Windows Live testing video search.

Filed under Hotmail, Live Search Maps, Microsoft, OS - Client, Windows Live, Windows Live Connection Center Wi-Fi, Windows Live Contacts, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Search Center, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Vista

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May 8, 2006

Microsoft releases Windows Live Messenger beta

Posted by David Hunter at 10:09 PM ET.

Press release:

Microsoft Corp. today announced that the new Windows Live™ Messenger beta is available broadly to the public for download at the Windows Live Ideas Web site. The beta of Windows Live Messenger, which is the next generation of MSN® Messenger, the most widely used instant messaging service with more than 230 million customers worldwide, includes customer-driven feature enhancements that make it even easier for consumers to stay in touch with the people and information that matter most to them.

Some of the new features are:

  • Windows Live Call with Verizon Web Calling service. With one click, users can go directly to the Windows Live Call feature and, through the Verizon Web Calling service, place affordable outbound local voice calls and domestic or international long-distance voice calls over the Internet. Service is already offered to Messenger customers in five countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain. As of next week, this calling service will be available in localized languages and currencies for six new markets — Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands — giving more customers more ways to communicate with the people that matter most to them.
  • Cordless phones designed exclusively for Windows Live Messenger. Beginning today, customers will be able to purchase phones from Uniden Corp. and in the coming weeks from Philips that make Windows Live Call available through the handset, which can be used to make landline and Internet phone calls. Consumers can use their cordless phones from anywhere in the home, even while away from the PC.
  • Windows Live Contacts. Contact information is always current with Windows Live Contacts in Windows Live Messenger; users choose which contacts they want updated automatically. Windows Live Contacts are integrated and accessible across Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mail and MSN Spaces.
  • Unified contacts. Customers now have the ability to see and search all their contacts with the unified contact list accessible through Windows Live Messenger. Users can have up to 600 contacts, and easily search using the word wheel feature, which automatically sorts the contact list.
  • Sharing Folders. By simply dragging and dropping their files and personal photos of any size to their Windows Live Messenger window, customers can share them with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Offline instant message (IM). Customers can now send an IM to their offline contacts, who will receive the IM the next time they log in.
  • Video conversation. The free synchronized audio and video service in Windows Live Messenger, powered by Logitech International SA, allows customers to view and talk to their friends through their PCs in full-screen video with one push of a button using the webcams and broadband Internet connections.

This is pretty much what one would expect of a current generation IM service, but I have to observe that Microsoft is setting up yet another distinct contacts repository with uncertain compatibility and synchronization with all the others that exist.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Microsoft, Windows Live, Windows Live Call, Windows Live Contacts, Windows Live Messenger

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