Microsoft Live

Microsoft on Tuesday took the lid off its highly anticipated line of online services, called Windows Live and Office Live. The company has been quick to say that the new products are not meant to replace traditional desktop software, but instead are intended to enhance the Windows experience.

Using a phrase from rival Apple, the company says the goal of the Live initiative is to bring together all Microsoft technologies in a way that “just works,” according to company CTO Ray Ozzie.

The Windows and Office Live services would be advertiser-supported; however, higher tiers of service would carry various subscription rates. They would also be offered separately from the Windows and Office programs, the company said, ostensibly trying to allay bundling concerns.

“This advertising model has emerged as a very important thing,” Gates told attendees of a press event in San Francisco. “The live phenomenon is not just about Microsoft. It’s partners, it’s competitors; the whole space is being transformed.”

Windows Live is currently in beta, and users can register to test the various features from a new central Web site located at has its roots in MSN’s portal, while adding support for Web-based versions of Microsoft Gadgets that will work with the Windows Sidebar in Vista.

Unlike, however, does not currently work with any browser other than Internet Explorer.

In the grand scheme of things, Windows Live is primarily a simple rebranding of current services. Windows Live Mail, previously code-named “Kahuna” will serve as the next-generation Hotmail, while Windows Live Messenger is the name for MSN Messenger 8 - due out in beta later this year.

MSN Search has even been rebranded as Windows Live Search, although will remain in place for the time being while offering access to Windows Live services. The MSN brand will also continue to exist according to David Cole, senior vice president at MSN, but for pre-programmed content rather than personal services that would fall under the Windows Live brand…

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