Windows Live To Focus On The Essentials (Hotmail And Messenger)

With Bing stealing the online spotlight at Microsoft recently, Windows Live has been collecting dust in a corner. But Microsoft is preparing to update the core services that make up Windows Live over the next few months, and is refocusing what used to be a hodgepodge of different online services into three main products: Hotmail, Messenger, and Windows Essentials (which includes photo-organizing and movie-making apps). Microsoft’s VP of Windows Live Chris Jones explains: “Anything about information discovery, retrieval, and the public web is Bing. Anything about personal information is Windows Live.”

The focus will not be to recreate people’s social networks or where they share photos, videos, or status updates, but rather simply to connect Windows IM and email products to the rest of the social Web. Although Hotmail boasts 350 million active users worldwide and Messenger has 320 million, both products are a bit long in the tooth.

You can expect Messenger to tap into social networks and mobile devices in a more unified way, so that you can manage your most important relationships from within IM. I asked Jones if he plans on adopting a lifestream approach like AOL has already done with AIM—one place where you can see both your private and public messages across IM, Twitter, Facebook and other streams. “We have a different approach,” says Jones. “People don’t want to merge their feeds.” Instead, Windows Live Messenger will add features to extract “the information most relevant to me.”

What that means is that Messenger will try to filter out the noise and show you public messages from only your most important contacts. Or perhaps those messages which are being amplified the most across the Web. All of these features are still being worked on.

With Hotmail, similarly Microsoft will add more features to help filter out the noise and highlight the most important emails from your most important contacts. (Again, Jones isn’t offering any specific details yet about how this will be implemented). Hotmail will also add more collaboration features to more easily share Office documents and photos.

Finally, with the rollout of Windows 7, Windows Live Essentials will become a way to extend their PCs to the Web, especially when it comes to sharing photos and videos. There will be a big mobile component to all of this too, as the Microsoft Mesh team adds syncing capabilities to these products across devices.