Microsoft on Wednesday finally began revealing information about its eagerly awaited next generation Windows Live platform, dubbed "Wave 4" internally, which will include new versions of numerous Windows Live services and applications. According to Microsoft Vice President Chris Jones, Windows Live Wave 4 will begin rolling out to a small outside group "shortly," after which a public beta will occur.

"Today marks the point where we shift the focus from our current services to our next major release, known internally as 'Wave 4'," Jones wrote in a blog post announcing the development. "You're going to hear us really focus on three key areas—Messenger, Hotmail, and Windows Live Essentials—especially how the Essentials suite completes your Windows PC experience and connects your PC to the services you use every day."

Jones highlighted a few details about each of these three core Windows Live solutions. The next version of Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft's instant messaging client, will expand on its IM capabilities but also evolve into a companion for social networking services with comprehensive privacy tools. Hotmail, the web's most popular email solution with over 350 million active users, is being overhauled to help reduce unwanted emails and other clutter, and for easier document sharing. And the next Windows Live Essentials—which includes applications for photos, movies, email, blogging, and more—will focus on social networks integration, photo sharing services, mobile phones, and PC-to-PC synchronization.

If my email is any indication, many of you have been waiting for Windows Live Wave 4 news for some time, so this is good news. Expect much more information in the weeks and months ahead. I expect Microsoft will deliver a public beta sometime this summer, with the final release later this year. But you won't have to wait that long to find out exactly what's happening with Windows Live Wave 4. Stay tuned.