Microsoft Rolls Out Impressive Enhancements To Windows Live Essentials Suite

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Here are some classy wood iPad, iPhone stands

The picture above is a complete fake. But more on that in a minute.

Microsoft is giving a preview of a variety of enhancements to its Windows Live Essentials suite – a set of online and desktop services that includes hotmail, messenger, sync, movie maker and photo gallery. Most of the desktop versions of these services are available only for Windows users, although the online components only require a browser from any operating system.

These enhancements come after Microsoft’s preview of the online version of Office, which is also within this suite. I had a chance to sit down with Brian Hall, GM of the Windows Live Business Group, today to see some of the changes.

Many of the changes are fairly minor, but at least two are going to be big crowd pleasers. First, Microsoft has made changes to their Movie Maker video editing software that allows for the creation of Animoto-like video clips containing photos and videos. They’ve added a variety of transition and effect options, as well as the ability to add music and text, to these clips.

But the really interesting changes are around Photo Gallery. Previously Microsoft had a facial recognition feature to allow you to quickly add names as tags to photos. But they are now adding facial recognition as well, and it takes a guess as to the person in the photo. In the demo it worked very well and saves time with tagging – a lot of time. The application also has one click sharing of photos to Facebook and other services and the tags go with it.

But by far the most impressive thing I saw today was the Photo Fuse feature that they’ve added. The general idea is you can take a bunch of pictures and turn them into a single photo that’s better than any of the originals. And it only takes a few seconds.

The best use case is clearly group photos that you’d take a a wedding or wherever. Someone always has their eyes closed or is looking away. With Photo Fuse you can take the best parts of a number of photos and create that perfect group picture.

Hall spent a lot of time today showing me Photo Fuse, which I zeroed in on among all the other new features launching. We even took a few pictures of Hall and his PR people – Michael Celiceo and Bonnie McCracken – and ran them through Photo Fuse.

This was the final result – a picture that was never actually taken (the top image – you just can’t tell). The working photos that are real are below it. There’s also a video of the whole process. Fascinating stuff.




The new suite will launch in a few weeks, says Microsoft. In the meantime we’ll give away 100 accounts now – details in the next post.

More screenshots from the new products:






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