Microsoft takes the wraps off its competitor to Apple's iLife, the new Windows Live Essentials

Summary:It's been three years since Microsoft last released a public beta of its Windows Live Essentials suite. (So much for more rapid services releases.) But on June 3 ( just after12 midnight EST), the company finally went public with more details on the Windows Live Wave 4 Essentials suite.

It's been three years since Microsoft last released a public beta of its Windows Live Essentials suite. (So much for more rapid services releases.)

But on June 3 (just after 12 midnight EST), the company finally went public with more details on the Windows Live Wave 4 Essentials suite. (It sounds like the actual public beta of this suite is still not happening until the end of June, however.)

Gallery: Windows Live Essentials

Expected to be christened officially as Windows Live Essentials 2011, the latest suite includes both software and services components designed to complement Windows (and especially Windows 7).

When Microsoft launched its current version of Windows Live Essentials, the company didn't position the suite as a head-to-head competitor with Apple's iLife. Things are different this time around, with Microsoft touting the forthcoming Windows Live Essentials Suite as something that can meet -- and, in some cases, beat -- the $79 Apple iLife suite.

The latest version of Windows Live Essentials includes, as expected, the same set of common software/services that was part of the current release, with a common installer allowing users to pick and choose which of the included apps/services they want to add to their Windows desktops. There are a bunch of other Windows Live Wave 4 services that aren't part of the Essentials suite and don't have a software stub that must be installed on a PC in order to access the service.

The latest Windows Live Essentials suite includes the following components:

  • Windows Live Mail (Web mail)
  • Windows Live Messenger (instant messaging)
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery
  • Windows Live Movie Maker
  • Windows Live Sync (Live Mesh plus the former Live Sync sync service)
  • Windows Live Writer (blogging tool)
  • Windows Live Family Safety (parental controls)
  • Bing Bar

While the new Essentials suite will work with Windows 7 and Windows Vista -- though not with Windows XP -- it is optimized for use with Windows 7, according to the Softies. From Microsoft's promotional literature:

"Windows Live Essentials has been optimized for Windows 7. The new ribbon is used throughout to make it easy to access the most frequently used tasks. JumpLists are a part of each application, taking you right to the shortcuts you use every day. In addition, Windows Live Movie Maker takes advantage of codecs available in Windows 7, and photos can be adjusted using touch on any touch-enabled Windows 7-based PC."

As noted via tips and numerous leaked builds, the new versions of Live Photo Gallery and Movie Maker include new facial recognition and a "Fuse" photo-synth capability that sounds similar to PhotoSynth in concept. The new Windows Live Sync sounds like the former WL sync service munged together with Live Mesh, also as predicted.

I'm hearing Microsoft is planning to position WL Wave 4 Messenger as its alternative to Apple's iChat; Photo Gallery to Apple's iPhoto; Movie Maker to iMovie; Live Mail to Apple Mail; Live Writer to iWeb; and Family Safety to the Mac OS X Parental Controls. Microsoft has no comparable offering to Apple's GarageBand music-creation app, the Softies admit -- though Microsoft could have been a contender if it ever brought its "Monaco" app to fruition.

Microsoft is advising customers to compare iLife to Windows Live Essentials when making their PC purchasing decisions, according to Microsoft documentation. While iLife costs $79 for the add-on applications suite, Windows Live Essentials is free for the software. And iLife also costs users another $99 annually for its service components, while the Windows Live Essentials service complements to the add-on software are free, the Softies are saying.

I guess Microsoft's decision to take off its competitive gloves vis-a-vis Apple, post-Windows-Vista, also applies to the add-on services part of Microsoft's Windows/Windows Live portfolio.

What do you think? Is Microsoft's marketing message around the next version of Windows Live Essentials correctly positioning against Apple's iLife? Will it sway any potential customers?

Topics: Apple, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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