Microsoft announces major Windows Live update

In an attempt to gain a stronger foothold in internet "cloud", Microsoft has revamped their Windows Live services with new applications and third-party integration. By providing a hub for web access to e-mail, instant messaging, photos, and other web applications, Microsoft hopes to enhance the consumer experience by consolidating the digital content scattered throughout the PC.   Not only is it a one-stop interface for users, but it also hopes to be the point of contact between friends. This service puts Microsoft into competition with social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. “Our customers have friends across the Web. They communicate through many unconnected Web services and want access to it all from a single location — without worrying about how it’s done. Now Windows Live takes care of that, with an integrated personal communication service that works across the Web with optimized experiences on the PC and mobile phone,” said Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Windows Live Experience Program Management at Microsoft.

One of the most important parts of this new Windows Live is collaboration with leading companies such as Flickr, Pandora, Photobucket, Twitter, and more. Incorporating these sites seemlessly into Windows Live will give Live's 640 million users better management of all the services they use independently in one central location. Another exciting change is the updated and polished user interface, which had been neglected in previous releases to get products out sooner.

Some Highlights for the third update of Windows Live include:
  • Windows Live is making new social features available to all customers, including an updated profile, a “what’s new” feed of activities across the network and Web, photo sharing, and on-the-go access from virtually any device with Windows Live SkyDrive. Online storage is increasing from 5 GB to 25 GB.
  • Windows Live Messenger, the No. 1 instant messaging service worldwide with more than 330 million active customers, now includes more personalization, a “what’s new” feed with updates from contacts across the Web, drag-and-drop photo sharing in the conversation window, a favorites list to designate the most important contacts, and group IM to chat simultaneously with up to 20 people at the same time.
  • Windows Live Hotmail, one of the largest e-mail services worldwide with more than 375 million active customers, is getting a significant upgrade. It is now much faster and has 80 percent more effective spam filtering compared with previous versions of Hotmail. Upcoming changes include the ability to bring multiple e-mail accounts together, the ability to put multiple e-mail addresses onto almost any device, increased storage, and a revamped calendar that makes it easier to share calendars with others, subscribe to multiple calendars and use your calendar with Microsoft Outlook.
  • Windows Live Groups, a place for groups to collaborate online, includes a shared calendar, shared storage, a shared e-mail address, and shared instant messaging.
These updates are only part of the story.  Microsoft has also aligned itself with HP and China Telecom to provide integration for both media and mobile devices. They hope to extend their services to more people globally. The plan is to roll out the Windows Live services in 54 countries by early next year. 

Part of Microsoft's designs revolve around their goal of taking some of Google's share of online advertising revenue, who so far has continued to expand directly into Microsoft's territory with e-mail, online word processing, photo organization, chat, and other services provided by Microsoft.

Microsoft has lofty goals, challenging Google, MySpace, Facebook, and other internet giants. Will Microsoft be able to draw their 640 million users more singularly to their services or will this update be swept under the table by the combined weight of these other internet powers?