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September 6, 2007

Windows Live's Trojan Horse

Microsoft launched a software bundle for the most important products released under the Windows Live umbrella. Windows Live Installer (Beta) is very similar to Google Pack, but Microsoft doesn't include third-party software.

The confusing Windows Live brand brings together software and web apps that serve as an extension to Microsoft's operating system. It's pretty strange to include in the name of a webmail service the name of an operating system, even if Windows Live Hotmail also works on Linux and Mac.

Windows Live Installer has a triple role:

* to increase the adoption of Microsoft's search engine (there's an option to set Live Search as the default search engine)

* to bundle Microsoft's software offering in a unified package

* to integrate with Microsoft's web applications and to increase their usage and usefulness

"Windows Live makes it easy to store and manage your communications and information, and share what's going on in your life with the people who mean the most to you. (...) Today we're releasing beta versions of a new generation of Windows Live software designed for your Windows PC that makes it easier than ever to get connected to Windows Live or other services. (...) This new suite of applications is a new way that we can make connecting, communicating, and sharing anywhere a terrific experience on your Windows PC. Together with our web services, we have a complete suite that combines the best of the Web and the best of Windows, and works the way you want," explains Chris Jones, from Windows Live.

Essentially, Microsoft wants you to live in a "Windows Live World", where there's little difference between online and offline, but the installed software takes the central role. The software included in Microsoft's package have a consistent look and are tightly integrated:

* a sign-in assistant that lets you switch between your Windows Live identities the same way you switch between your Windows accounts (it works only in Internet Explorer).

* a shiny email client that looks and feels a lot like Microsoft Outlook. Windows Live Mail recognized my Gmail address and filled the POP3 settings for me, but it also provided me with an easy way to create a Hotmail address and to see the online status of my Messenger contacts.

* Windows Live Messenger, the software responsible for the huge popularity of Microsoft's social network, Windows Live Spaces.

* Windows Live Writer, an excellent blogging editor that works with most popular blog platforms, including Blogger and Windows Live Spaces.

* a photo gallery software that also installs Microsoft's desktop search tool and makes it easy to publish photos to Windows Live Spaces and videos to MSN Soapbox. Unfortunately, it wasn't able to index the "My Pictures" folder, but it has tags, ratings and an option to create panoramic pictures.

* the toolbar for Internet Explorer, whose main purpose is to let you search the web (with Live Search).

* Windows Live OneCare Family Safety is an online parental control service that helps "protect your kids from the online stuff you don't want them to see by filtering the Web sites they visit".

While many of these applications have counterparts in Google Pack, the integration between Google's products is almost non-existent or not very visible. Google also didn't use the opportunity of a software like Google Desktop to let you publish documents of the web or to send photos from Picasa to Google Talk.

Windows Live Installer has great software and a good distribution strategy could help it improve the awareness of the Windows Live brand and also keep people away from Google.


  1. You dont need a Hotmail account to use Messenger.. just a passport..which can be made using your gmail account. I think you have also missed one important factor about Windows Live - we are seeing an important transition of Middlewhere from being including in the OS to being pulled from the web. Photo Gallery, Mail and Messenger all replace currently feaures in Windows XP and Windows Vista. The next version of Windows will not have any installel, just linkst to get them - which OEMS will be bale to control etc. So; from that perpective, it's good for google too - Google have Picasa, Desktop and Talk and no doubt more in the works.

  2. I didn't say you need a Hotmail account to get a Windows Live ID (Microsoft Passport), but getting a Hotmail is the first option on this page.

    Microsoft would've been very pleased to include all of them in the OS. In fact, many of them are upgrades for software included in Vista:
    - Windows Live Mail
    - Photo Gallery

    Windows Messenger was included in Windows XP, but not in Vista, but there's a link to the download page in Vista.

  3. Microsoft is going win this battle again if google doesnt show more interest in building more integrated systems. Microsoft has the user base of windows to deliver their software and google hasnt. So what they need to do is being faster than microsoft.

    Orkut-gtalk-reader-gmail-docs-igoogle-picasa everything should be ALREADY intercommunicated.

    AND, microsoft software isnt that great but...

  4. It would be helpful for readers to recall that some of these products, like Windows Live Desktop, are still BETA, which means they have bugs and can cause problems with your PC. Both Microsoft and Googlehave massively outsourced their software testing and product development cycles by releasing products in BETA, which means they are not done. The difference between the Google Pack and Microsoft Live is that most of the Google products are much more polished and less buggy than the some of the early stage Microsoft products. It is remarkable that Microsoft is casting so wide a net with such an incomplete set of offerings.

  5. What's the justification for the title? Or does "Trojan Horse" have a different meaning that I don't know?

  6. I can't waste time talking about microsoft procucts. Quality? No, at all.

    I fell scared just thinking about the idea of installing some kind of "windows live desktop". What the hell is that?

    Microsoft will never make better things than google. What they have now is a lot of years taking control of the operating system's world. And using bad things to do it.

    Better than that is only to see "smart" people using operating systems like windows vista.

    Congratulations to you, guys. You are failing more than microsoft!

  7. @Justin:

    An innocently-looking package whose purpose is to entice you to use Microsoft's online service. The package may seem a collection of software, but it's more like a bridge from the OS to their web apps.

  8. The BIG difference between Microsoft's and Google's approach is that Micrsoft are using installed applications as a frontend to a server based backend.

    They are trying to stop their desktop paradigm based operating system from disappearing into a web like cloud.

    Essentially, its an attempt to stave off the threat of the browser; that we do not require installed applications for common tasks any more.

  9. I was eager to try the Windows Live Writer program so I tried to install it. Alas, I cannot install. Since I'm running the supported OS and have admin rights on my PC I assume this is a problem with my network here at work allowing the installer to download/install/run what it needs to. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened to me - I had the very same problem trying to install Google's offline tool for Reader. :(

  10. Hi again. You clarrified my points, thanks, but my overal point remains ( I am a fan of google,please don't think otherwise!!) that Microsoft is having to (to stave off legal problems) pull out of the core OS offering of middleware apps and throwing links to them in the cloud. They then stick them back down on teh OS, but with the user's (or OEM's decision) desktop. There is nothing to stop Google to profit from this. OEM's can change the links. Google could improve its "pack", and certainly should harmonise the various tools it has scattered about. Even linking from Reader back to Gmail is a mess, and only relatively recently did Gmail have a link to Reader! Google has the desktop, the tool bar is in vritaully every app you download (!), and yet, picase is seperate, google talk downlaod is hidden away, and so on. I would love to see google scare microsoft big time. For now, they only do that "on the web", and not on the desktop. And right now, not EVERYONE is ALWAYS connected to the Web, so microsoft's offline apps will continue to be an asset.Google needs to make more use of Gears. Let's hope they are doing just that behind teh scenes!

  11. My take: If I was setting up a casual users computer for the first time, I would probably get them to use this as it is the least complicated and quickest way to get them online.

    The integration between the applications if very Apple like, and easy for a new or non-power user to figure out.

  12. Google Toolbar, Picasa and Desktop, for example, also "entice you to use [Google's] online service(s)". Toolbar asks you to use Google Docs, Picasa asks you to use the Picasa Web Album and Desktop also is a subtle entry to Google Search as well.

  13. what do i thin?!, i think microsellout needs to come up with there own NEW ideas instead of reinventing the wheel, they got Windows live mail, "BETA", ( for e.g.) microsoft never used to send out beta, at least not until google has been beating everything out to the public. micro$oft, come up with something original.

  14. Hrm, Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta had no problem indexing the My Pictures folder on my comp, in fact it did it much faster than Picasa did. Only took it a couple of minutes to index over 3500 photos, not too bad. Picasa took about ten minutes I believe. I am now torn between Picasa and Photo Gallery, time to check out the features I guess...

  15. It's more of a Trojan than you think: it installs Windows Desktop Search on XP machines, without bothering to tell you, let alone asking for permission.

  16. Tijir, I checked it out too. It's powerful in ways of inputting data, but what do you do with all those tags once they are in? How about a lil' user-focused thinking?

    In Picasa your tags become albums, where you can drag-drop-rearrange the sequence of your photos, i.e. really make up a good slideshow.

    After 5 minutes of trying I'm back to Picasa. Now, if only they got away from the single-PC concept :-(

  17. You have no idea what sort of panic the title of this post sent me into. I read the article, yesterday, and tried (unsuccessfully) to install the Live Mail Beta, last night. I woke up this morning, and upon start-up, AVG alerted me that it had found a trojan. Naturally, I remembered the title of this post, and, until I re-found it in Google Reader, I've spent the entire day wondering if my reading comprehension skills were completely shot.

    Oh, and just to be a bit more on-topic, unified installers are teh suck, and the few MS betas I've actually managed to install has been bloated beyond all comprehension.

  18. Although my favorite email account is Gmail, I use Windows Live because it allows me to check all of my email from Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Verizon, in one place. But I woke this morning to find Kapersky had discovered a Trojan Horse that slipped through using Windows Live. Here's my question: is it possible to configure Gmail to receive my mail from the above named sources?

  19. @Paddy:
    I'm not sure if you're talking about Windows Live Mail (desktop mail client for Windows) or Windows Live Hotmail (webmail service), but I'll assume you talk about the Windows client.

    If you can read your email from Yahoo in Windows Live Mail, that means you use the paid version of Yahoo Mail that offers POP3 or you have an account at or other international domains. Your Verizon account also has POP3. To import messages from email accounts that have POP3 access, Gmail has a feature called mail fetcher: "Gmail's Mail Fetcher can download messages from up to five other email accounts, centralizing all your email in your Gmail account".

    Unfortunately, Hotmail doesn't offer POP3 and you can read your messages only in a small number of programs created by Microsoft (Outlook through a plug-in, Windows Live Mail).

  20. Thanks, Alex. As a result of the recent Trojan Horses being introduced to me, I've reworked my email gathering a bit. See if you see anything wrong with my logic here. Windows Live Mail allows mail from multiple accounts onto their platform. Kapersky recognizes an attack and notifies me. I haven't opened any mail at this point, but somehow Windows Live has allowed the horsies in far enough to upset my Russian bodyguard, and me. The reason I have a handful of mail accts. to begin with is because the public ones are so vulnerable and after awhile I just stop using the badly hit ones. One of my Hotmail accounts is in that state. So I dropped that Hotmail account today from the Windows Live Mail list. If I ever want to check that mail, I'll do it myself without W.L.M.'s help. And you're correct about my Yahoo being a paid account, which being a GMailer, I resented being coerced into. Eventually, I'll funnel all of my mail into GMail. And then just hope Google continues to offer such premium service for free bucks. By the way, the Verizon account is one of the least well protected from spam I've ever experienced and I'm considering blocking any mail from that domain, since my appetite for Viagra and other enhancements is not nearly as keen as some of Verizon's clients seem to think.
    Thanks again for helping me to see the forest fot the trees. Waking up to a Trojan Horse is something I hope to avoid from now on.

  21. The windows live sign-in assistant is Proprietary JUNK. This is crazy software. Are we all somehow incapable of entering a user name and password ? It's also a huge RAM Hog. I am a basic PC user and I can identify this crap thats pretty sad.