What's new in the latest Windows Live Essentials update? Good question

Microsoft is not saying much about its latest update to Windows Live Essentials 2011, its software and services bundle meant to complement Windows.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft posted for download this week its first update to its Windows Live Essentials bundle of software and services since July 2011.

As the folks at LiveSide.net have noted, Microsoft isn't saying just about anything about this update. In the March 20 "Windows Experience" blog post which alerted users to the availability of the new bits, all that the Softies said was the "minor" update to Windows Live Essentials 2011 was ready and that it was available in 48 languages.

When I asked for specifics about the update -- which the blog post also mentioned in passing includes unnamed "critical fixes" -- I was told by a spokesperson that "this update is focused on performance and ensures all features continue working properly; it is important to keep the overall experience running well."

I asked and was told there are no new features included in the update for any of the included components. I also asked and then was told there are no new platforms supported by this update -- including Windows 8 Consumer Preview (though I have heard from various folks they are running Windows Live Essentials just fine on the CP). The Essentials bundle runs on Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

Those current Live Essentials users who do not choose to download the Windows Live Essentials 2011 update (the build number of which is 15.4.3555.0308 -- thanks, LiveSide!) at this time will be prompted to upgrade to the new version "in the coming weeks." Because it includes "critical fixes," the update will be required for all eligible customers, the Softies said.

Microsoft rolled out Windows Live Essentials 2011 in the fall of 2010.

The previous update to Windows Live Essentials 2011, which Microsoft rolled out in two phases starting last summer, includes Photo Gallery, Mail, Movie Maker, Messenger, Writer (a blogging tool), Family Safety (parental controls), Live Mesh (the PC-sync tool formerly known as Live Sync), the Bing Toolbar, Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, Office Live Add-in and Silverlight. The products in the Essentials suite are a hybrid of software and services.

There are other Windows Live properties that are not part of the suite, including Hotmail and SkyDrive, which are Web services that do not install software on users’ machines.

Microsoft is working on new versions of some of these Live services and software. Some of the components, like Messenger and Mail, are expected to be released as applications for/with Windows 8. Some of the functionality currently in Live Mesh is going to be integrated into the next version of SkyDrive.

Update: There have been reports of those downloading the new update having some Live Mesh issues. LiveSide has more on what's going on there if you're one of  those affected.

Update No. 2 (April 4): LiveSide finally managed to wrest more information from Microsoft about the fixes and updates that are in the latest Windows Live Essentials update. Why Microsoft was trying to keep that information secret is anyone's guess....

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