Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

Summary: The beta Wave 4 bits of the new Windows Live services and products are... just plain awful. Avoid like the plague, with the exception of maybe one of their rebranded marvels.

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Microsoft has within the last hour released the new beta versions of their next generation Windows Live products, nearly a year since the last refresh. So far, it's like I've been watching a clown run across a minefield.

Annoyingly after the first shot at installing the new bits, not only did the installation program crash, but second time around it asked me to force reboot. After a successful second attempt, I realised that the user did not actually have control over what will be downloaded and installed. For those who just want to quickly download Messenger, this can be done but is not so obvious from the download page.

Gallery To see a screenshot gallery of Windows Live (Wave 4) in action, pop along over here and take a look before you try it out.

It feels that the "out of box experience" - that being the first few interactive steps the user engages with - doesn't make a concerted effort to connect with the existing user. I get the impression that it treats me as somebody entirely new to the products and that I should be almost forced into registeration to access their 'Facebook equivalent' social web pages.

Messenger has a very Windows Phone 7 feel about it, spliced in with the Zune and you'll have this crazed, socially addicted love child. It is sluggish, it feels clunky and complicated, and it churns up the memory like you wouldn't believe. It feels like a children's toy of which everything you touch must be interactive in some way; one could only describe this as sensory overload.

Though the silver lining is that tabbed conversations make the interface feel a lot easier to manage

Mail offers a very simplistic Outlook perspective, which I assure you is a good thing. For those who struggle with Outlook, Mail (Wave 4) gives you the Ribbon but the simplicity that you would need when just writing an email and "being done with it".

Annoyingly, it seems to have no connection to Live@edu so when you whack in your Windows Live-enabled university username and password, it doesn't recognise it forcing you to manually add the settings.

Within the first few moments of configuring the client, it will animate pretty much everything and anything, meaning your eyes jump around the screen without knowing exactly where you should be looking. But worst of all, and tested on a couple of machines now, you can't even access half the things you should be able to. Quite critically, the "email account properties" button on the Ribbon sporadically refuses to open - which means I can't configure my server addresses properly. It's a good job they have a right-click backup.

Just as with Messenger, the program is clunky, sluggish and feels like it's been thrown together by an angry child at best. For all intensive purposes, though it may be a beta, Mail is useless.

Photo Gallery seems to hold your screen hostage with the number of pop-up's and notifications it gives you on the first start-up, but nevertheless I have a quiet admiration for this program. Sure, there's so much going on it detracts from the value, but the ability to do very complex things with the touch of a button - first seen in Wave 3 - is quite incredible.

The panorama picture creator works absolutely tremendously, and the Photo Fuse technology baffles me. Regardless, the social features and the ability to create and share are very clear and obvious in this version.

Family Safety: nobody cares about; Movie Maker: just as crap as it ever was, use Camtasia instead; Writer:only good for bloggers and let's face it, student's generally don't because they're too drunk to care and they've gone far beyond the angsty levels of the average teenager...

And so very annoyingly, the Bing bar was installed without my knowledge. On the rare occasion that I use Internet Explorer (it was definitely a result of this installer as I sneakily used it this morning), bang - there it is. I like to keep my browsers bare bones and without clutter, crap or toolbars - and this has totally screwed up my e-feng shui.

You can individually download elements of the suite of applications, but it's hidden away on the other side of the page and it's not exactly obvious to the eager user.

Ah. Sync. What was Live Mesh (I believe), Sync connects computers together quite well, allows shared folders between machines and includes remote desktop to view your screen away from home. It'll sync your Internet Explorer tabs (though no other non-Microsoft browser) as well as your Microsoft Office documents. It doesn't ask what to sync at first and just goes straight in for the kill, which frankly worries me as it doesn't allow me to really hold onto my data before it's potentially vulnerable to the Patriot Act...

I'll use this for a bit longer and report back, but I strongly suspect that Sync will be the wild-card which turns Wave 4 around for me. The rest of the applications, albeit in beta, should be tied to a post and shot.

You can download the Windows Live (Wave 4) Essentials beta here. After you install, come back and have your say. What are your first impressions?

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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56 comments
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  • Really?

    Read the instructions: This is a BETA release, meaning if you have no business but to complain about it, then stay away from it. You weren't forced to install this were you?

    I'm not sure what to think these days, as more and more zdnet bloggers are just pilling up silly articles.

    Oh and here's a small (good) piece of advice for you...uninstall it, and you'd be "free" from this said misery of yours.
    Tola1005
    • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

      @Tola1005 I had a sweepstake on how long it'd take for someone to say this. Suffice to say I underestimated people power. Yes, I'm fully aware it's a beta release but frankly it doesn't bode all that well in the long run. I doubt very much whether the "beta" factor has much effect on the speed of how things run; it's the fact that very little in terms of eye-candy will change up until release and so far it does not look that good!
      zwhittaker
      • This is why developers/companies don't release BETA products...

        @zwhittaker It's because people like you with a stage (ZDNet) write articles like this one, without an understanding of the software development lifecycle. Or, in laymens terms "What a BETA is...".

        For the unitiated, a BETA is an early (i.e., with bugs and problems) version of a product, to give enthusiast and testers a chance to look at what's coming. Typically, work would not have been put into polish what's called the "Installer", so your installation process might be bumpy. Why put the extra work in, when your binaries and and associated artifacts (i.e., Installation text, images, icons, etc.) will change?

        Next, let's move on to the speed issue. It's a BETA, which means that they probably still have their "Debug code" within the applications, to help to get better telemetry (i.e. Information about bugs and crashes) and in some cases, extra code that will be pulled out later as it found to be not needed (e.g., multiple procedures that have overlapping functionality). All of the extra debug and miscellaneous code can and will slow down BETA releases, but you take them out when you have your RELEASE Build.

        As a developer, articles like this is what leads me to say that I am not going to give users the product until it's done, but then you miss out on all of the valuable feedback that you get when you do a public-beta.

        Seriously, you would have better served your readership by either making a statement that you understood that this was a BETA build and that problems such as Installation and Speed are to be expected in a BETA build. At least it would have given us the illusion that you knew something about how software is built, and you wouldn't have made the sweepstake comment above, because it makes you even seem more clueless, because you obviously knew that what you were doing was probably wrong, or at least disingenuous.

        Lastly, I know that companies like Google with their multi-year BETA cycles on products like GMail may have confused what a BETA is, but even Google has stopped doing that, so please help your readers better by acknowledging the level of quality expected in a friggin' BETA!
        rs_jr
      • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

        @zwhittaker
        Quote
        I doubt very much whether the "beta" factor has much effect on the speed of how things run
        End Quote
        Your kidding right?
        Stan57
      • I saw big differences in performance

        between Windows 7 Beta, and the actuall RTM product.

        This is where they get to see what things have issues on what products.
        John Zern
      • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

        @zwhittaker I had some of the same feelings in terms of speed but I at least give them the benefit of the doubt since it is a beta (an early one at that) version.

        And I do believe speed can be improved before the final version hits. It is possible their debug code is the culprit.

        I also think messenger is HORRID. The first think I saw was the giant display ad. As a UX designer I think this is total crap.
        rjohn05
      • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

        @zwhittaker

        I agree that the Live experience as it stands now pretty much sucks, but as others point out, it is a beta. Most MSFT betas change quite a bit by the time they hit RTM(they'll still have a lot of bugs, but most of the eye candy and evident usability issues tend to be fixed).
        I think you're confusing MSFT betas with Google's betas, which actually work pretty well, and the beta periods last so long that you forget you're using a beta product. It seems that the most visible changes to Google betas before the final release is to the EULAs and to address privacy concerns.
        And to the other posters saying the beta tag excuses all buggy behavior, I think Zack is actually doing the MSFT devs a favor by reporting on what he thinks is wrong with it. Especially the very annoying lack of speed. That's a major factor in usability, and in this case it's too crappy even for a beta release.
        just my $0.02
        balaknair
      • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

        @zwhittaker
        Weren't you a CS major at one point? How can you possibly believe that Beta code is as fast as production code? This may turn out to be a turd of a program, but that statement show you're completely ignorant about the S/W development. I suggest you stick to articles about released software.
        notsofast
    • Spot on

      Another MS success;-)

      MS has for sometime released betas as production. Their betas are alphas. All they've done is step this up, betas are now release from the developer's source control snapshots.

      GIt can't be easy getting this much out of USD8 billion a year R&D spend;-)
      Richard Flude
      • Troll on, Rick!

        I can see why you where named one of the worst here, Rich.

        It seems that MS 8 billion on R&D returned 60 Billion in sales.

        Can your company speak the same? LOL!

        (you are such an easy mark!)
        John Zern
  • Had the same installation fiasco... but the software is very good.

    nt
    dcoaster
    • Oh dear...

      @dcoaster

      The Stockholm syndrome just keeps working its magic where you least expect it.
      OS Reload
      • OS Reload

        I think it is past your bedtime. Please leave the adults to talk.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • I know. Those poor people using Linux

        You obviouslly are going off topic and talking Linux here, right? :)
        John Zern
  • Grow up kiddo

    What exactly is ur point with this article? <br><br>The beta has been out for 2 hours and u have already piled up ur review, is that even logical? <br><br>From my experience the programs work quite well as advertised, the sensory overload u mentioned is just total BS, there is just one type of animation for the program. I' m not sure what ur complaint is.<br><br>Live mail says that it is mean to be mostly used with hotmail, gmail and yahoo , they never said it works out of the box with live.edu. The program is not clunky if u use a machine which satisfies the system requirements, mine satisfies the min and it still works fiine. <br><br>If the photofuse baffles u, i suggest you visit www.windowslivepreview.com for a spoonfeeding<br><br>The option to select the programs to install is right there in the website where u download, u just have to move ur eyes half an inch to the right.<br><br>If u don't like it, post some valid points, don't take it on a personal level . <br><br>Grow up kiddo
    Spry Chipper
    • Wow, what a fine display of maturity

      Perhaps it all stems from you having grown up just bit too much, who knows.
      OS Reload
  • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

    From the very first paragraph, poppet was intent on slating Windows Live. I suggest sticking to the day job - sensible and unbiased reviews are definitely not for you.
    Poppets
    • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

      @Poppets I am in a bit of an anti-Microsoft mood today, granted :)
      zwhittaker
      • And who can blame you?

        @zwhittaker

        However that's just a transitory feeling, just give it time and the Stockholm syndrome will take care of that negative mood.
        OS Reload
      • RE: Windows Live (Wave 4) beta: Oh dear, oh dear

        @zwhittaker Then dude! You should have started your post with that statement, so that it wouldn't have taken your readers so long into the post to disregard this post as anything more than someone having a snit.

        Does ZDNet have any editors left on staff? I mean, they let you post this review of a BETA product!?!?

        I see in your Bio that you are not a Computer Science major, so I forgive your ignorance of the Software Development Lifecycle, but you probably shouldn't be running, let alone writing about BETA products. It doesn't sound like you have the necessary life/professional experience with software or maybe computers to do so. I know that sounds a bit snarky, but seriously...it is a FRIGGIN' BETA!
        rs_jr