BitDepth 735 - June 15

Microsoft upgrades its online document and storage services, I sample the new wares.
Microsoft rebrands, upgrades online services

This is your new Hotmail.

It’s hard to figure out just what Microsoft is up to with its new Windows Live services. On one level, it’s a distinct upgrade for Hotmail users, who have been long overdue for a revamp of their web-based e-mail service.
But Microsoft has bigger ambitions for the service, which you can find at Along with options for photo albums, blogging and tighter links with the company’s Messenger instant messaging service, the company has revamped its web applications, upsized its free online storage to 25GB and forged new software links with its Office productivity suite.

Free downloads available on the basic Live website include Windows Live Writer, software for blogging that supports offline composition of text, photos and videos that supports Windows Live blog as well as other popular blog platforms.
The Photo Gallery and Movie Maker download also make sharing media created on the desktop with a web audience a more seamless process.
Of course, sharing is kind of pointless if there’s nobody to share it with, so there are fledgling tools for building an online contact list and inviting people on your list to share the content you create in your Windows Live space.

It was kind of startling to get someone knocking on my virtual door within minutes of completing my sign-in with the Windows Live website, so there’s clearly some interest in the service and room for growth.
But growing is going to be a challenge.

Windows Live straddles three distinct areas of potential growth, leveraging links to the company’s software, specifically the Office Suite and Outlook Mail client for consumers and the enterprise, business focused social networking that feels more like the controlled environment of an early Linked In than the rambunctious free-for-all of Facebook, and the content sharing capabilities of Flickr and YouTube.

Microsoft doesn’t have the business focused enhancements that Linked In has evolved or the critical mass of participation that has buoyed Flickr and YouTube to the top of their respective markets. 
What it does have is a strong and clearly determined base of Hotmail users who have been gifted with a lot (including, interface themes, spell check, sleeker design and 4GB more of online space) for their forbearance during the system’s less attractive days and a strong presence in the business world among users of Outlook and Office in most enterprises.

More ambitious users will have to take a few extra steps to make the best use of the features that Windows Live will bring to their working environments. Outlook users will need to download the Microsoft Office Outlook Hotmail Connector to establish richer links with the online service and Office users must sign up for the Office Live workspace using their Windows Live IDs.

This is likely to prove to be a complication for timid users, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find Microsoft adding in a wizard soon to automate the process.
It’s also very early days for the service. While the online photo albums are functional, there is no web based batch upload, you have to select each image you want to upload separately.

Other bits of quirkiness surface when you press the service. I logged into one computer to explore the system and another to upload photos, but the photo album wouldn’t appear on the first computer until I logged out and back in.
It’s a revamp that clearly acknowledges the competition but also reaches out to its existing user base with a feisty refresh of Microsoft’s online service.
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