On Wednesday, Microsoft released to the Web its first non-beta version of the Windows Live Suite, a set of free applications and online services aimed at helping consumers communicate and share experiences online, and access their content from any Windows-based PC or device. Some of these applications and services, such as Windows Live Mail, had literally been in testing mode for years, although the integrated suite itself is a relatively new enhancement.

"Today we take a significant step forward in helping consumers simplify their digital lives," says Microsoft Corporate Vice President Chris Jones. "With over 400 million customers using the service today, we have a real opportunity to help consumers connect their online experiences, devices, and networks in new and powerful ways. This new generation of Windows Live brings great enhancements to popular services like Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Spaces while introducing new, fun experiences with digital photos, planning and sharing events, publishing to the Web, and keeping in touch with friends that we think our customers will really enjoy."

The Windows Live Suite consists of a wide range of applications and services. Among them are Windows Live Mail, a full-featured desktop email client that replaces both Outlook Express and Windows Vista's Windows Mail; the Windows Live Messenger 8.5 IM solution; Windows Live Spaces, a Web-based blogging service; Windows Live Photo Gallery, an update to Vista's Windows Photo Gallery photo management and editing solution; Windows Live Events, an Evite.com-like event planning solution; Windows Live Writer, a local Windows application for creating blog content; Windows Live Toolbar, an add-on for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE); Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, a Web safety and parental controls service; and Windows Live for Windows Mobile, which includes sets of native applications and mobile services for users of Windows Mobile smart phones.

In addition to rolling out non-beta versions of these applications and services, Microsoft has also made available live.com email addresses for users and transition tools for moving from hotmail.com and msn.com to live.com for those who prefer the new domain. (Users are welcome to continue using and creating hotmail.com and msn.com email addresses going forward as well.)

To download the components of the Windows Live Suite, go to the Windows Live Web site at
http://www.windowslive.com . For more information about switching to live.com, visit the Windows Live Fresh Start Web site at http://www.windowslive.com/freshstart.html .

Correction:
In Monday's WinInfo, the $749 version of the HP MediaSmart Server was incorrectly described as having two 1TB hard disk drives. However, the MediaSmart Server actually includes two 500GB hard disk drives for a total of 1TB of storage. Sorry for any confusion that might have caused.