Microsoft says it will soon begin external testing of the next edition of its online “Live” services. But the new features won’t be available in Windows XP.
Chris Jones, the Microsoft vice president in charge of Live says that the next release, known internally as Wave 4, is ready for a limited group of non-Microsoft staffers to test. While he’s not gone into intricate detail, he says the major themes of the changes are as follows:
Windows Live Messenger (aka MSN)
This will be expanded so that it is no longer purely an instant messaging client and will instead be a “companion for your social networks”. Jones’ description sounds reminiscent of several online social network aggregators which aim to make it easier to track the same online friend across multiple services. He also stresses Microsoft being “committed to ensuring that you’re in control of your privacy.”
Windows Live Hotmail
The planned improvements will be based on efficiency and productivity. It appears this will involve better use of filters to highlight important messages while making it easier to discard unwanted messages. There will also be improvements to tools for sharing documents and images via e-mail.
Windows Live Essentials
This is the desktop software branch of the Live collection. Again the improvements seem to be based around closer integration with social networking services, with a particular emphasis on the features of Windows 7.
What isn’t mentioned in Jones’ post is Office Web Apps, the new free online editions of Word, Excel and the like which will be clear rivals to Google Docs. It’s believed more details of these will be appearing in the coming weeks.
Jones has also confirmed that the new editions of the Live Essentials package, including photo and video tools, won’t be available for Windows XP. That suggests there’ll be more intensive use of the graphics features of Vista and Windows 7. The online services such as Messenger and Hotmail will still run on XP, as will previous editions of the desktop software/