Windows Live Opens Filing Cabinets, Photo Albums

Continuing to expand its portfolio of services under the Windows Live roof, Microsoft’s newest beta offerings allow users to store and share photos and files online.

The Windows Live Photo Gallery, Microsoft said, is an upgrade of the Windows Photo Gallery that comes with the Windows Vista operating system. However, people still using Windows XP will be able to use the online gallery, according to the company.

In much the same fashion as Google’s Picasa and Yahoo’s Flickr, Windows Live Photo Gallery will allow users to store and share photos online.

The other newcomer is called, at least for now, “Windows Live Folders.” It gives users 500 megabytes of online storage that can be made accessible by friends and colleagues (who must use a Windows Live identification to gain access).

Coming Together Online and Off

There have been rumors about the Windows Live folder offering for some time, Directions on Microsoft Lead Analyst Matt Rosoff said. “It’s not meant to be a full PC backup or anything like that,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s just meant to store files that people might want to share, documents and that type of thing. I think it’s a logical step for them to take. As you move more and more things online, storage becomes more important.”

Microsoft describes Windows Live as “a set of personal Internet services and software designed to bring together in one place all of the relationships, information and interests people care about most, with enhanced safety and security features across their PC, devices and the Web.”

That’s a broader approach than prior Windows Live offerings, such as Live Hotmail and Live Messenger, which were focused on the individual, noted Microsoft.

Plan Gets Clearer

“I’ve always been a little bit puzzled by the Windows Live brand for online services,” conceded Rosoff. However, Microsoft’s strategy of linking its ownership of the operating system space with online services is becoming more apparent, he said. “I think they’re more clearly articulating what Live has been,” he said. “There’s a clear connection between Windows with links to online service.”

The Windows Live approach has been confusing, agreed JupiterResearch analyst Barry Parr. It comes across as Microsoft following Google, Yahoo and others, he added.

“In terms of new features, this feels like the things Google and Yahoo have been offering for years,” Parr told TechNewsWorld. “It feels like they’re really playing catch-up with the two leaders in the portal market.”

Microsoft has an advantage in some regards, he said, because its Live products are part of the Windows brand and can be integrated with the Windows desktop. However, Google and Yahoo “have the benefit of a voluntary relationship with the consumer” said Parr.

Google and Microsoft seem to be aiming for the same integration of desktop and Web services, Rosoff said, but they’re doing it from opposite sides. Google keeps releasing applications for the desktop to augment its large online portfolio, while Microsoft, which owns the desktop, is moving strongly into Google’s Web turf.

More on the Way

The two new betas are part of a number of new services Microsoft plans to release soon, the company indicated. “Microsoft remains committed to delivering an integrated set of services to help consumers more easily and safety communicate and share online, and is focused on helping enable consumers to extend and enhance their Windows PC experience in particular through connected software and services,” it said.

The beta of Windows Live Photo Gallery beta is available in nine markets at this point: the United States, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Japan and Spain.

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