Microsoft lifts lid off online suite

Microsoft lifts lid off online suite

130MB download promises to bridge the online-offline gap

Microsoft has released a Windows Live Suite that bundles a series of desktop applications that provide access to the firm's online services.

The suite includes Windows Live Writer, an editor tool where users can compose blog postings for a series of blog services, as well as a desktop client for mail and messaging services.

Windows Live Photo Gallery lets users organize, edit and share digital photos. The application reminds of Picasa, a tool that Google acquired in 2004. Windows Live Events takes on with event planning and invitation features. The bundle also includes a parental control tool that prevents children from accessing inappropriate content.

Microsoft touted the bundle as an all-in-one service to access online services. The application doesn't just connect to Microsoft services, but also to those of competitors. The Photo Gallery for instance uploads picture to Yahoo's Flickr service, and the writer support both Microsoft's Spaces as well as other blogging platforms.

The software developer cited a study that found that consumers are getting increasingly frustrated about having to access multiple websites to track their email, online photos, address books and other online services.

"Today we take a significant step forward in helping consumers simplify their digital lives," said Chris Jones, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Windows Live Experience Program Management.

"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."

The bundle brings some sense of unity to a set of services that has been criticized for lacking direction. Microsoft unveiled its Windows Live vision in November 2005 and released them out of beta in September 2006. The initiative is largely considered a "me-too" effort to catch up with Google.