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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.

This blog is not affiliated with Google.