Microsoft this morning announced a major coming update to its Windows Live stable of offerings, with major updates coming both to its application suite--called Windows Live Essentials--and its numerous online services. Microsoft says that these new additions will complete its so-called Wave 3 series of Windows Live releases.
"This is the end game, overall, for the Windows Live Wave 3 release," Windows Live general manager Brian Hall told me in a recent briefing. "The suite of applications we have out now in public beta will be updated soon, and the Web services, which are now in a private beta, will be rolled out in final form in the coming weeks."
What Microsoft is planning to unleash in this product wave is actually pretty staggering. There are new capabilities in the Essentials suite coming, including cross-PC photo library syncing via Windows Live Sync, and deep integration between each application and the Web-based services, many of which are new. Some upcoming services include Windows Live Photos, Windows Live Groups, and Windows Live People. Additionally, existing services are being updated as well. Windows Live SkyDrive is being bumped to 25 GB of free storage, and Windows Live Hotmail is gaining free POP3 and email account aggregation features.
But the most impressive changes coming in Wave 3 have less to do with Microsoft's own products and services, per se, than they do with how the company is integrating them with a host of external social networking services. Instead of trying to compete with the MySpaces and Facebooks of the world, Microsoft is hooking Windows Live into over 50 of the top social networking services worldwide and making Windows Live the hub from which users can manage their connections with others online.
Via news services capabilities, Windows Live users will be able to do things like aggregate contacts lists from a variety of services, instead of managing them separately on each site. They can get updates from their friends from a central location, like the revamped Windows Live Home site, or their Messenger application, so that they can track things from around the Web. So when users upload photos to Flickr, review products on Amazon.com, post to Twitter, or perform many other activities via a wide range of services, those changes are optionally fed to friends and contacts via Windows Live.
I'll be writing a lot more about Windows Live Wave 3 in the coming days. Expect a preview later today on the SuperSite for Windows.