Windows Live: Fresh look but same walled garden?

Windows Live: Fresh look but same walled garden?

Summary: CNET Reviews has a series that gives individual coverage of some of the Windows Live components that Microsoft has released to the public.  The last two additions to the series -- one for the Windows Live Toolbar and the other for the Windows Live Mail Desktop beta -- were published last week.

TOPICS: Windows

CNET Reviews has a series that gives individual coverage of some of the Windows Live components that Microsoft has released to the public.  The last two additions to the series -- one for the Windows Live Toolbar and the other for the Windows Live Mail Desktop beta -- were published last week.  I've been reading the reviews and clicking over to Microsoft's Web site to get more details.  A lot of what I've seen so far looks like a healthy if not welcome remake of previous technologies.  But, at the same time, the nudges (which range from subtle to forceful) into a Microsoft-only world are reminders that the company is a bit more closed than it needs to be.  To be fair though, I can't imagine Google, AOL and Yahoo (the competitors that Windows Live seems most designed to deal with) What would make Windows Live Mail Desktop even more compelling is integrated support for instant messaging solutions beyond MSN Messenger. not heading more wholeheartedly towards similar walled-gardens of their own. But they're invariably a bit more open where such openness is called for (for example, with the Web browsers that are supported).

Overall, "Windows Live" is Microsoft's new brand for the company's free Web and desktop based tools and it is clearly a part of the larger strategy that many of the company's executives have been talking about with relation to how to take on Google and Yahoo, both of which have done a better job to date of monetizing Web-based services than Microsoft.  As Microsoft releases new components like the Windows Live Toolbar, they're generally designed to replace some pre-existing software.  In Live Toolbar's case, that older component was the MSN Toolbar. 

Like competing toolbars from Google and Yahoo, the Windows Live Toolbar is designed to deliver embed additional functionality into the browser, much of it driven by the company's Internet-based services.  Unfortunately, whereas Google and Yahoo's toolbars work in most browsers and on non-Microsoft platforms like Mac and Linux, Windows Live Toolbar still reflects Microsoft's agenda to drive Internet Explorer into the market by supporting that (versions 6 and 7) to the exclusion of everything else.  What follows suit if IE is a requirement? Windows. Eventually, I expect this to change. Over the last year, Microsoft has become increasingly sensitized to the successes of Google and Yahoo and one of the keys to those successes has been  the availability of their services to any user and developer, regardless of which browser or operating system they choose to use.

Much the same way the Windows Live Toolbar is designed to replace the MSN Toolbar, Microsoft's Windows Live Desktop Mail offering is designed to replace Outlook Express -- the e-mail client that comes built into to every copy of Windows.  As a sidebar, Microsoft is also rebranding the Internet-side of its mail offerings -- Hotmail -- to Windows Live Mail.  Get it? The only difference between the client and server side products is the word "desktop" (a smart branding move that Microsoft probably should have made years ago -- regardless of the brand name). CNET didn't have much to say about Mail Desktop (the beta apparently just came out and can found here) other than:

Mail Desktop's prominent "Add an e-mail account" button lets you set up automatic feeds of messages from Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Other features include built-in RSS feeds to display your handpicked news, drag-and-drop message organizing, POP and IMAP compatibility, and spam and phishing safeguards. You'll be able to edit and attach photos and publish blog entries without leaving the interface. Go to to try the test edition of Desktop Mail. 

By way of the mail client's support of the POP3 standard, Gmail and Yahoo mail support were available with the old  Outlook Express. One big difference from Outlook Express that will have some people wanting it back (and ripping a page out of the Eudora business manual) will be the advertising that appears in Mail Desktop (sort of reminds me of how advertising has invaded our instant messaging clients (all of them) where, one day, not too long ago, IM was a much more pristine experience).

The RSS and blog authoring capabilities of Mail Desktop certainly sound interesting and no doubt, if you're a blogger, you may actually like the offline capability. But, if I read the aforelinked summary page correctly, much like the way the Windows Live Toolbar only works with Internet Explorer, it looks as though Mail Desktop will be designed to work with MSN Spaces as the blogging back end since nothing else (ie: Wordpress or SixApart's TypePad) is mentioned (if you know otherwise, please comment below).  That page also mentions newsgroups (as in NNTP newsgroups) perhaps eliminating the need to have a separate newsgroup reader (if newsgroups are where you spend some of your time).  My only question is whether you can point it at any NNTP server or if you have to point it at Microsoft's. The reason I ask is that one answer in Microsoft's FAQ about why a Passport or Hotmail account is a requirement  drops some hints about where Mail Desktop gets most of its juice from:

Well, first of all, we need a way to identify you to help protect your e-mail account. Also, Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta is designed to work with other MSN and Windows Live services. Once you’ve logged in to the program, we can give you seamless, one-click access to MSN Spaces, MSN Messenger, and all your Windows Live contacts....And remember: once you sign in, you’ll be able to see all the accounts you have added to Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta—without signing in to each account individually.

Microsoft has been doing a lot on the anti-phishing front. IE7 has some cool anti-phishing technologies and Mail Desktop will probably tighten the hatches when it comes to spam (phishing is a form of spam) but my hope is that when it comes to all of Microsoft's anti-spam technologies, that they do a much better job of helping me to easily understand why something that isn't spam keeps getting identified by the mail client as such. These are called "false positives."  I know I can reverse the effect by "approving" legitimate senders.  But even better is to automatically create something that I can return to a legitimate sender that explains to him or her that their mails are getting automatically shuttled into my junk mail folder and why. Presumably, they'd want to know this because there's a really good chance it's happening to their other recipients as well.  Recently, when I checked my Outlook junk mail folder, I was shocked to see how much legitimate mail was in there.

Anyway, if you ask me, what would make Windows Live Mail Desktop even more compelling is integrated support for instant messaging solutions beyond MSN Messenger (now, Windows Live Messenger).  For example, it could support AIM, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and/or IRC (actually, it would be VERY cool if IRC was supported given how many gamers use it as a communications backchannel).  As a side note, there is some integration with Yahoo's Instant Messenger.  As of last month, Windows Live Messenger users can connect to YIM users and vice-versa.  Also, ability to tie maps to appointment locations in the calendaring part could support maps from Google, Yahoo, and AOL in addition to just Microsoft's Windows Live Local (the new name for its online mapping service).

Many of Microsoft's current and future Web-based services (as well as those of Google, Yahoo, and AOL) will be enabled with APIs that will make it possible for independent developers to do some of the integration work that the big four choose not to do on their own.'s Martin LaMonica has a pretty good story on the emergence of this do-it-yourself (DIY) Web.

Topic: Windows

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  • Actually, the latest version of messenger supports

    IM with other clients.
  • It is designed to be a walled garden

    The way I read Windows Live Mail Desktop, is that it is not part of Windows and will never be. It is the property of Windows Live division. It is not part of core windows platform, so they need not make it to work with other services. Asking them to do this is like wanting to use Google messenger client and wanting it to connect to Yahoo network. All the Live services can be accessed through a browser, the client is, well, a client to their services.
    • The question is.. how can it not be?It

      Moving forward, I don't see easy options for companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo. They'll all need to "cross-promote" their own services, largely to the exclusion of others, to win. In some ways, as Google, Yahoo, and AOL head down this path, it will legitimize what Microsoft has done for so long. Look at eBay disallowing GPay as a payment mechanism. It's the same thing. End users will lose in flexibility. But flexibility doesn't pay the bills, does it. Well, some flexiblity might help which is what all these companies have to figure out: where to draw the line.

  • oneness with MS

    Seems the underlying theme of MS is to unite the world under one OS, theirs. Though it seems that MS is allowing other vendors into the realm, the truth is it?s like a black widow spider, luring it?s victims in for the kill. <p>

    IE is an MS only product which can not be uninstalled or purchased separately. Major problem is, there are a few sites that are IE only and that has presented a problem during the Katrina incident in that many personal could not access web resources without IE. This has prompted one company to employ other technologies in their web designs to circumvent such issues in the future. <p>

    Sooner or later MS will require the demise of everything other then Windows. All their sites, their tool bars are MS only. Sure they will work with other browsers but faulty. And MS will not support any product that won?t be run on MS products. That is why Linux has a loyal following of people who have a common goal and mindset. MS is narrow minded, Linux is totally open minded. I believe the goals are what makes the difference between MS and everyone else. Both have a vision of being the ultimate, but MS is looking at it from the perspective of monopoly, Linux is more for the user and the community. MS may say screw the community, and screw the world and screw Joe User. As long as all you cretins pay for it, we don?t give a damn. Linux is about peace and unity. Thank god for Open Source. Now the mighty giant has something to worry about, and will topple soon.
    • right on, maaaan.

      Keep smoking the dope and promoting world unity.

      Linux will never gain mass acceptance until it becomes a more closed integrated system. The average Joe just doesn't have the skills or interest to manually assemble a collection of tools themselves. They want a no-brainer, turn-key experience.
      How many people would buy a car if they received a pile of parts that they had to configure themselves? Yes, they would gain a whole lot of flexibility in configuring the car EXACTLY how they wanted, but most just don't care enough to go through the hassle.

      MS is a for profit corporation. What about that don't you get? Of course they're promoting their own products. It's called good business. If you don't like it you can use Linux. Or buy a Mac... oh wait, they're a closed system too.
    • You have opened a blind eye

      I guess all it takes is an opener from another internet access company or someone with a brain who makes sense foe a change in here where most all people do is bellyache about something the don't have, don't want, don't need or ever use. thanks for the eye opener and I do agree with you..
  • Maybe you'd like to pay for it too?

    Hey buddy, it's free. You're griping about a free tool being restrictive? Then go buy a solution that allows you a bit more freedom. It's not like you HAVE to use this one.
  • Windows Live and IE7beta3

    Finally I have a gripe about Windows IE7 beta3 and Windows Live. Since I also have a membership in Yahoo Canada (a number of web sites mail ans such) and have for a lot of years I have found that Yahoo will not support the EI7 beta3 browser. I can no longer FTP to my sites at Yahoo (which ticks me off). And Windows Live and Windows Live Mail is (and I best hide now) is nothing but a whole lot of $*@@. Yuppers.. took a lot of years to get here but I did. Not apologizing for nuttin though aye..!! So my choice is either, drop all Yahoo connections, drop all Windows, IE browser, and Microsoft connections and lose sites (have already downloaded them so lose nothing there) and go get me somethingelse for my 4 computers. Boy do I love shopping.. seems to me the choice is simple so don't go getting excited about my back tracking on Microsoft products. Will let you know what has been done.
  • windows live

    When you download windows live, their toolbars and other features, how many spybots do they embed in your computer?