New beta builds of Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger (8.5) and Windows Live Writer (a blog-authoring service/tool) are available to testers for download as of May 30, according to Microsoft.
The next version of Windows Live Mail went to testers in nine markets today. The new version will integrate "features from OE (Outlook Express), Windows Mail AND Windows Live Mail desktop" (WLMd), according to an early May posting on the Windows Live Mail team blog.
* "New and improved UI: Cleaner design, and now with Aero support! * Setup and account migration improvements: Smoother experience overall - you will now have fewer steps in order to get started with the client. * More parity with OE and Windows Mail: S/MIME and LDAP support are just two of the features that we’ve been working on for WLM which will bring us more parity with our other free Mail clients. * Performance and stability: The new product will be faster and more robust than WLMd. * No Ads: Yes, it’s true – there will be no graphical ads in the WLM beta build."
A company spokeswoman emphasized that users of Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail and Window Live Mail Desktop users will be able to access their mail via the forthcoming Windows Live Mail release. She sent the following company statement via e-mail:
"Microsoft is investing to help ensure that Windows Live Hotmail customers can get their e-mail any way they want it - from the web to mobile to client access. While Outlook remains our premiere e-mail client, there are millions of people who use free, consumer e-mail clients and we wanted to have a solution to meet their needs. Windows Live Mail desktop beta testers will be automatically updated to the new Windows Live Mail service via Microsoft Update (if they opt-in)."
Microsoft is characterizing the Live Messenger 8.5 release as "primarily a back-end update." However, according to a company spokeswoman, it will include some "consumer-facing feature updates such as new look and feel in sign-in and conversation window, new emoticons, and integration with Windows Live OneCare Family Safety."
The LiveSide.Net bloggers have been dissecting Live Messenger 8.5 for the past few days. The new build includes integration with Windows Live Folders -- Microsoft's "storage in the sky service. (But not Windows Live FolderShare, the forthcoming synchronization service), the LiveSiders noted.
On the Live Writer front, Microsoft has made a first version of its blogging tool available in the U.S. since August 2006. No official word yet on what new features are coming in the new Live Writer beta build. Microsoft officials are simply calling it a "refresh."
Update: Here is some additional info from the Live Writer team blog on what's new in what they are calling "Live Writer Beta 2."