There's a lot of conflicting information out there about Windows Live Wave 4.
While those who cover every twist and turn of Microsoft's next Windows Live service add-ons to Windows are in the know (as are the small group of testers outside the company who've been granted access to beta versions), the general user public is probably a little confused. (I'm basing that statement on the fact I'm confused, even though my job entails watching Microsoft closely.)
I decided to ask the good folks over at LiveSide.net for some help explaining what Windows Live Wave 4 is and what to expect. Here's a quick e-mail Q&A between me and Kip Kniskern, the main cook and bottle washer at the independent Windows-Live-watching site. (Note: These answers aren't condoned or verified by Microsoft, but LiveSide has a pretty good track record, in terms of ferreting out details that only sneaky geniuses like them can do.)
MJF: What are the components of the forthcoming Windows Live Essentials 2011 bundle?
Kniskern: Same as before: Messenger, Live Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Family Safety. Bing Toolbar replaces Windows Live Toolbar. Live Sync is there, but totally redone. We've mentioned that it will only be able to sync 2GB to the cloud, but that's been lost in the shuffle a bit. Also the Live Mesh mobile sync did not appear to make the cut, so there's no Live Sync mobile client, leaving the mobile sync story (the only one that matters, really) unresolved. Will it be My Phone? the KIN Studio (the only thing good about the KIN)? Possibly Live Sync adding a mobile client later in the beta?
MJF: What are the other Windows Live Wave 4 services that aren’t in Essentials?
Kniskern: Hotmail, SkyDrive (now much more integrated), Office Live (is that what we're calling Office Web Apps now?), the Windows Live Home social network feed aggregator, which will replace Hotmail Today.
MJF: Of all of these, which are going to get the biggest overhaul?
Kniskern: Messenger gets tabs, and video calling is revamped. The Ribbon is added to all the Essentials services (basically Writer gets a ribbon and not much more, for example. The social networking aggregation is built into more services (Hotmail Today, a new sidebar in Messenger that everyone will immediately turn off, etc.)
MJF: So what do you think the rollout schedule for all this is, other than all of these things appear "in the coming months"?
Kniskern: First, Windows Live Essentials beta gets announced. Then, on June 15, Hotmail begins rollout. Somewhere end of June (blogger Francisco Martin is reporting June 21-25), Essentials downloads will be available and the public beta starts. Final is "in the fall" - we've heard that it will coincide with Windows 7 SP1, as the "first big feature update to Win7".
Readers: What else do you want to know about Windows Live Wave 4? What's still confusing you, if anything?