Microsoft Ramps Up Windows Live Services With Storage And Photo Tools
Microsoft has slowly been releasing pieces of its Windows Live Services over the last year, and on Wednesday a couple more betas hatched onto the web. Windows Live Photo Gallery is intended as free upgrade to Vista???s Photo Gallery (it also works on XP) and Windows Live Folders is the long awaited ???Live Drive??? backup storage solution. For now both services are in limited beta test phases.
Windows Live Folders is currently a managed beta and accounts are limited to 500 MB of storage, but that restriction will be lifted as the product moves out of beta. To use the new beta, you???ll need a Windows Live ID, but otherwise the service works quite seamlessly. There are a number of options for sharing files, including options to allow access to the whole web, selected users or keep them totally private.
In order to access files in a shared folder other users will need at the bare minimum a Windows Live ID for authentication. Beyond that, you can control whether or not specific people can gain access.
While Windows Live Folders is easy to use and I had no problems in my testing, it isn???t exactly groundbreaking. For instance, you wouldn???t want to try backing up a large number of files through the web interface since you???re limited to uploading five files at a time.
Windows Live Photo Gallery is an update/replacement for the Photo Gallery that ships with Vista, though the new version works with XP as well, which should be welcome news for those who haven???t upgraded yet. Microsoft claims Windows Live Photo Gallery will have a number of enhancements, including a new ???stitching??? tool and built-in tools for posting photos to Live Spaces, or, in the case of videos, Soapbox.
While there is actually a live page for the Photo Gallery beta, the link currently leads to a dead page. Hopefully the download will be active soon.
As part of the announcement, Microsoft has posted an interview with Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Windows Live Experience Program Management. Jones outlines some of Microsoft???s strategies for the future of on/offline applications, which Jones refers to as ???software plus services.???
Unlike Yahoo and Google which mostly offer browser-based applications, Microsoft plans to use desktop clients for many of its integrated services.
For example, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mail and the new Windows Live Photo Gallery are all essentially desktop software packages that also feature an online component.
Some might argue that the future of the desktop is the browser, but Microsoft doesn???t seem to think so — of course, they are a desktop software vendor, so they have a vested interest in making sure the browser doesn???t replace the desktop.
At the moment, Microsoft???s Windows Live strategy appears a bit fragmented and with the company cranking out so many new betas at such an impressive pace, many users may not even be aware of everything that???s currently available.
Jones acknowledges this issue and says an all-in-one download of the whole integrated Live Suite is in the works.
With Google and Yahoo focused on the browser and Microsoft taking a more hybrid direction it will be interesting to see which approach customers prefer. For my money, I???ll stick with the browser, but let us know what you think in the comments below.
When you first login to Windows Live Folders you’ll see an overview of your storage options
The web upload interface is fairly primitive, but at the same time all web-based uploaders tend to suck
Viewing an uploaded file. Note conspicuous lack of image preview.