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.
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.