New Generation of Windows Live Now Available to Consumers Worldwide
Microsoft today announced the global availability of the next generation of its Windows Live services, a set of online tools available at no charge for consumers and designed to enhance the Windows experience by helping bring the power of the Web right to the PC or mobile device, and helping consumers communicate and share with the people they care about.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world already use Windows Live services such as Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Spaces, but with the new generation of services being launched today, there’s a whole lot more to know about Windows Live.
To provide a little more context around today’s milestone, PressPass spoke with Chris Jones, corporate vice president, Windows Live Experience Program Management, about Microsoft’s vision for this new generation of Windows Live services and how Windows Live is poised for growth and is continuing to evolve along with the customers who use it.
PressPass: What is Windows Live?
Jones: Windows Live is a set of online tools, available at no charge, that makes it drop-dead easy and fun to communicate and share online from anywhere across multiple devices. It’s e-mail, instant messaging, publishing to the Web and photo sharing wrapped into one simple suite. It makes staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues easy. And, with built-in safety features, Windows Live helps you stay in touch with confidence. Think of it as a great companion to Windows to really enhance your experience.
PressPass: You said Windows Live will be available worldwide, but who do you really think is the target audience?
Jones: More than 400 million people are already using various Windows Live services worldwide today, and we expect the appeal of this Windows Live release to be quite broad around the world. With more and more people coming online every day, Windows Live can play a central role in helping to connect the online experience for people across devices, services and networks in a way that is both easy and powerful.
Windows Live Mail offers very similar and familiar functionality to Outlook Express, and also provides easy online and offline access to your Windows Live Hotmail account and the ability to combine one contact list and combine multiple inboxes including other Internet POP and IMAP e-mail-based accounts all into one place. It is a powerful desktop application that connects out to Hotmail or any other POP or IMAP e-mail provider. When you add great mobile email support for Windows Live, you get a pretty compelling e-mail solution.
Photos is another area we are pretty excited about. We think anyone who owns a digital camera and likes to share photos with friends and family will appreciate the ease and convenience of Windows Live Photo Gallery, which provides a simple way to manage, edit and share your photos online to Windows Live Spaces or Flickr with just a few clicks -- and at no charge. More than 2 million people have already downloaded the Windows Live Photo Gallery beta service since June and are using it to organize and share their digital memories – we’ve been really happy to see such an enthusiastic response.
If you are a Windows customer and haven’t tried Windows Live, we think you should download Windows Live today – it just makes your Windows experience better.
PressPass: How is today’s announcement different than what you announced in June?
Jones: Today we are delivering on the vision we shared in June. We’ve had fantastic response and participation in the beta services to date, and have learned a lot in the process. Most important, our beta testers had real impact on the services you see today. For example, in response to beta customer feedback, we increased online storage for Windows Live Hotmail and the Windows Live SkyDrive beta. We also made user interface changes on Windows Live Spaces and our homepage to make the services more interactive, showing recent activities happening for users and their friends. We’ve brought our applications together into a single installer which makes it easy to try them all out. Each service in Windows Live has been tweaked and optimized, which makes us excited about today’s release. It’s really been a partnership with our customers to deliver something we really believe will be powerful, useful and fun.
PressPass: There is a lot of competition in online services. What makes Windows Live stand apart from the rest?
Jones: Windows Live is an end-to-end suite. Consumers don’t have the option for an integrated suite at no charge anywhere else today—nobody else in the online services business offers such a thing. Our services within Windows Live “talk” to each other, which ultimately makes things much easier on the customer, so they aren’t having to do things like make separate contact lists for each service. For example, people can use their own Windows Live homepage to see new comments on their Windows Live Space, new messages in their Windows Live Hotmail inbox, a list of events they have scheduled on Windows Live Events, as well see updates from their friends. If someone wants to download multiple Windows Live services, we’ve made it really easy to get everything – or pick and choose their favorites – all in one unified download experience.
And people can use Windows Live to get the most out of other services they use too, like the ability to easily share a Windows Live Spaces photo album link with your Facebook friends, or to publish photos to Flickr using Windows Live Photo Gallery, or, as I mentioned before, to manage all their various online e-mail accounts in one place with Windows Live Mail. By creating an integrated suite of services that is easily accessible and enables our customers to get the most out of our services but also the other ones they use is an approach we think sets us apart. We think that customers are going to enjoy the convenience and also be enticed to try different Windows Live services as they become more familiar with the suite.
Then there is what’s different for developers and advertisers. We created a platform for them to build on and reach their audiences, something that is a critical piece of our overall vision. We understand that not everyone will store their information and do all their communicating on one service or be a part of one social network, and we feel it will be essential to help enable other developers, designers and partners to extend the Windows Live experience to deliver their own robust, customer-centric experiences. And this new generation of Windows Live is going to bring great opportunities for advertisers by offering a suite of social media services that allows them to connect with their target audience where they plan, live and share throughout the day. We have an exceptional audience and one of the largest networks on the planet, and we think this represents great opportunities for the industry to join us in delivering the next generation of software and services to consumers.
PressPass: What is your favorite Windows Live service?
Jones: The greatest thing about Windows Live is there is a service I can use to communicate with all the groups I am associated with. For a going away party for friends, I used Windows Live Events to set up the event and share photos after the party. My co-workers and I are constantly using Windows Live Messenger to communicate during the day. With my friends and family, I use the more personalized services like Windows Live Spaces and Windows Live Hotmail to share stories and photos of the daily happenings with my family.
If I had to choose one particular thing with this new generation of Windows Live services that has me the most excited, it’s probably the photo experience. I have three children and we are taking more photos than ever. With the new Windows Live Photo Gallery I can manage all of my photos in one central location, and with a rich tagging capability, as well as sort and group by date features it is super easy for me to quickly find photos, and create slideshows or photo albums of specific events. I can also have fun creating panoramic photos by stitching together multiple separate photos, or using photo mail options in Windows Live Mail to send my family pics to relatives and friends. The ease of sharing my photos in email or on sites like Windows Live Spaces or Flickr straight from Windows Live Photo Gallery is really a big deal for me.
PressPass: What can we expect further down the road from Windows Live?
Jones: Lots. We’re continually working to make Windows Live relevant and useful to consumers, developers and advertisers. In the coming year, consumers can expect us to continue to deliver on the Windows Live vision with enhancements to all the Windows Live services, including Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger Windows Live Writer and more. We’ll also make some new products available that align with our software plus services strategy – for example, new services still in beta like Windows Live SkyDrive. We will keep refining, adding and connecting the experiences within our Windows Live suite of services and across the networks, devices and services that are important to our customers. We expect to continue to deliver new innovations to our Windows Live customers as we continue to invest heavily in our online services business over the next few years.
PressPass: Do you have any plans to celebrate the final launch of Windows Live?
Jones: Yes! First, we have announced that we are working with Operation Smile, a nonprofit medical services organization, and a host of celebrities and community leaders to help Operation Smile kick off a 40-mission “Journey of Smiles” around the world later this week. As part of the partnership, we are calling on customers to go to the new Windows Live site to share pictures of their own smiling faces. Not only will their photos be considered for inclusion on the site and on the big screen displays at events in New York and Los Angeles, but since we’re donating a portion of our Windows Live Spaces ad revenue in November and December to Operation Smile, the more photos shared on Windows Live means additional money donated by Microsoft to Operation Smile. These events are really cool too – with futuristic photo booths, amazing visuals and interactive ways for people to share their smiles for a great cause, with the New York location also featuring a dynamic, larger-than-life smile-spectacular. When you think of the Internet, specifically the way it has connected people across the planet, the notion of getting over hundreds of millions of customers excited about sharing virtual smiles in order to make a difference in the lives of children is amazingly powerful. We’re very excited about this part of the launch, and I’d really encourage you to check it out, and share a smile. I know I will.
Second, in celebration of the Windows Live release, we’ve also announced that we will be doubling the contributions provided to the organizations participating in our i’m initiative for the months of November and December. The i’m initiative is intended to help empower Windows Live customers to help make a difference in the world just by using the services they already use. It’s only in the United States right now, but there has been an overwhelming grass roots response from our customers about this program and we think they’ll be happy to hear their efforts will go even further for the organizations they care about during the upcoming holiday season.
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