So out of curiosity, I decided to do some checking up on what MSN.com is doing. Much to my surprise, they've been very busy.
With Vista out now for a while, and from what I can gather, Microsoft is doing it's best to create as much interoperability between Windows Vista and Windows Live.
|Windows Vista Start Bar||Windows Live Star Bar|
On every Windows Live page, there's an icon in the top left corner that looks an awful lot like the start button on Windows Vista. The operation is exactly the same as well. In Vista, you access your programs, documents and settings through the start menu. In Live, you access all your Windows Live services in the same way.
Windows Live Hotmail
We all are very aware of Windows Hotmail, which has been offering free web based email for over ten years now. However, after Gmail hit the scene, Hotmail was nothing to write home about. Gmail offered more space, an easier interface, Google's name and stability. Hotmail had a fraction of the space, and because of it's lack of decent filters, was always riddled with spam. Now, thanks to a complete redesign, enhanced filters, it's established user base, and 5GB of space, Windows Live Hotmail is suddenly a force to be reckoned with.
While many people may find this a bit intrusive, Windows is offering OneCare, a downloadable application made specifically for Vista that offers protection, performance monitors, and more to keep your PC running smoothly. While the application is not free, Windows is offering a 90 day trial. For those who are not particularly computer savvy, OneCare seems to be easy to use, and beneficial for Vista users.
Microsoft's blog service is nothing new, and honestly, nothing to get excited about. The design is basic and bland, and the only thing it has going for it is it's integration with Windows Live Messenger. Users can see when new blogs and pictures have been updated right in their messenger window.
Normally, this wouldn't be of much news, but it does lead us into...
Windows Live Writer
This is one application that I was frankly surprised about. Windows released a standalone blog writing application for use with it's Windows Spaces blog service. What's surprising is that it's compatible with most other blog services. It's WYSWIG editor is very easy to use, and automatically formats itself to match the look and feel of the blog, taking fonts and CSS into account. Comes complete with spell check, formatting tools, and more! However, as nice as a standalone application for blogging is concerned, one thing that I found a bit annoying is that unless you have an FTP account handy, embedding pictures is not as intuitive as Google's Blogger service. For this entry, I found myself uploading pictures into SkyDrive (see below), setting them in a dedicated folder, setting permissions, copying the web address for each one, and then inserting that into the blog in Writer. Not particularly intuitive, if you ask me. If you're listening, Live Team, integrate SkyDrive into Writer so that I can Click and Drag files into my posts!*
Well, with all this mention of SkyDrive, lets move on to....
SkyDrive is a web based storage drive, much like Google's Drive extension (which was not very intuitive to use). Unfortunately, as of the time of this writing, SkyDrive was having some issues, and I wasn't able to check it out for this review. One drawback is that SkyDrive only offers 500MB of storage, which may be enough for hosting photos and the random document for transfer between home and work, but not much else.
There are more services which I haven't had the opportunity to sample yet, but one thing that I have noticed is that the Live Team has left Beta as a suffix to most of these services. There are noticeable improvements to be made, but so far, the Live Team is making many enhancements to the general service.
I'm not sure if this will tempt me away from Google's iGoogle homepage, or the variety of services that Google offers. Some may think that this is too little too late for Microsoft, however, it is a welcome change from the bare minimum that was being offered before.
(*Edit: As of this writing, an extension for writer has been made to include files from SkyDrive. It's available from the "Add a Plugin) link, but it's not much help...