Microsoft is making available the beta bits of its next Windows Live Essentials Wave 4 suite as as of Thursday, June 24.
Once the beta is released on June 24, it will be available for download here from the Microsoft Live.com site.
This beta of Windows Live Essentials (if you need a refresher on Microsoft's confusing nomenclature) is a subset of the Windows Live Wave 4 services. Unlike some of the Windows Live services, those in the Essentials family include both a software and a service component. The Essentials suite is bound together by a common installer.
Members of the Essentials family include the new Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Live Sync (which includes Live Mesh), Writer and Mail. The Windows Live Wave 4 client software won’t work on Windows XP.
Microsoft is positioning the new Essentials suite as its way of "connecting Windows 7 to the cloud"and also as its competitor to Apple's iLife suite.
(Speaking of Windows 7, Microsoft also announced this evening that it has sold 150 million Windows 7 licenses since October 2009.)
The Live Essentials team has been talking up the Essentials family since earlier this summer, declining to provide specific beta or final ship targets. It has been rumored for a while now that the Essentials suite would go to beta this week, but Microsoft officials wouldn't confirm that until June 23 via this blog post. Windows Live team members also are not saying when to expect the final, other than before the end of 2010. According to one tipster who's been pretty reliable on the Windows Live rollout schedule, Microsoft's current plan is to deliver the final Essentials release in September 2010, which already is a month later than originally planned.
Microsoft delivered the beta of Windows Live Wave 4 Hotmail on June 15, noting it could take a number of weeks for customers to get the beta bits, as it takes a while to get that code deployed on Microsoft's servers.
The rumored final name of the new Live Essentials suite is Windows Live Essentials 2011. Microsoft has yet to confirm that name officially.
Once any interested testers have a chance to try out the new bits, I'd be interested in hearing what you like and don't....