Microsoft is rolling out in two phases starting this week an update to its Windows Live Essentials 2011 bundle of Windows add-on software and services.
Windows Live Essentials 2011 includes Photo Gallery, Mail, Movie Maker, Messenger, Writer (a blogging tool), Family Safety (parental controls), Live Mesh (the PC-sync tool formerly known as Live Sync), the Bing Toolbar, Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Office Live Add-in and Silverlight. The products in the Essentials suite are a hybrid of software and services. There are other Windows Live properties that are not part of the suite, including Hotmail and SkyDrive, which are Web services that do not install software on users’ machines.
The coming refresh to the 2011 suite includes updates to a number of the pieces. It includes full support for SSL and a fix for a sorting issue in Windows Live Mail; a new version of the Bing Bar; stability issues and voice/video quality improvements in Messenger; bug fixes for Photo Gallery; and overall general performance and quality of service updates across the suite.
As of this week, the update is available on the Microsoft Download Center and at http://explore.live.com. Some time later this month, existing Windows Live Essentials 2011 customers will be prompted to update to the new version, which is build number 15.4.3538.0513.
In other update news, if you're one of those wondering what happened to the "Remember me" and/or "Remember my password" checkboxes on the sign-in pages for Microsoft services that use Windows Live ID, there's a new blog post explaining Microsoft's philosophy for eliminating those options. (Now there's a sign-in page focused on a single account with one check box option -- "Keep me signed in.")
One more update-related note: If you're wondering about a recent Zune HD firmware that went live recently (v4.5 build 114) - it fixes a known security issue around fraudulent digital certificates that also affected Windows, Windows Server, Windows Mobile phones and Windows Phone 7 phones.