Windows Live – More than an AJAX Desktop

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Windows Live and Office Live

I blogged my raw, unedited notes from the Microsoft press meeting today real time on CrunchNotes. One of the two major announcements was Windows Live (best viewed on IE of course). Office Live was also announced, which I will be writing about later tonight.

Windows Live is a free, ad-supported AJAX virtual desktop. Most of the functionality could be seen in the Microsoft sandbox project called Start, which we profiled a couple of months ago.

However, Microsoft has added plenty of new features that add a lot of value to the product. Among them are email integration, a new instant messaging client, plaxo-like contact management and skype-like features that allow outgoing calls to normal POTS phones. Windows Live is also extensible via “gadgets”. After what I saw today, I despair for many a silicon valley startup.

The Desktop

The core features include a (now) standard AJAX desktop, wich a drag and drop interface, options to change the number of columns, ability to save searches, etc. There is a pre-populated feed reader on the left column, and adding new feeds is a one-click affair.

The really special stuff, though, are the Gadgets. These are third party applications that can be added to Windows Live via the Add Content feature on the top left. For current gadgets, check out MicrosoftGadgets.com.

One Gadget I added was the Flickr viewer. Adding it takes a couple of steps, and you are able to view Flickr photo’s via tags. Since anyone can create a gadget, I’d expect to see thousand so options in the near future.

Email

You can add a mail account directly to the Windows Live page and get Outlook Express-like functionality directly on the browser. This technology looks to come directly from the Kahuna project, which we have written about several times.

Instant Messaging & VOIP

This was the coolest thing I saw demo’d today. Windows Live will soon have a new instant messenger client embedded on the site. The IM feature will include the ability to make outbound POTS calls, like Skype. They’ve leapfrogged Google’s Gtalk in this regard.

There is also an advanced contact management feature that bakes in plaxo-like features (you control your own contact info and people pull it to keep updated).

Blake Irving walked us through a demo that included a search for restaurants near the TransAmerica Building in San Francisco. As he zoomed in and narrowed his choices, he chose a restaurant, and via a click called the resaurants’s normal phone line to make a reservation. I took a picture, which is up on flickr. The VOIP caller is pictured to the left.

The IM functionality will be released in December.

That’s all I’m going to profile for now. Additional features are discussed at ideas.live.com. I want to repeat, what really got me today was the Gadget extensibility and the full VOIP IM integration.

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