Microsoft's downloadable Windows Live tools all got an update last week, but the "Wave 3" enhancements to its online services will take longer to crest.
The online tools, things such as Windows Live Skydrive, Windows Live Spaces, and so forth will all get updates in the coming weeks, though general manager Brian Hall declined to offer a specific timeline in an interview earlier Monday.
He did let slip that Windows Live Hotmail will be the first of the services to get an update--sometime this week. Hall said that the main focus of the update is speedier performance on slower machines, some of which could see the Web-based mail service run up to 70 percent faster.
Hall said while the past few years have been about rapidly creating new services, the focus now has shifted toward making those different services work together.
"The next four years is really going to be a race to simplify the Web," Hall said. "The hard part is going to making sure they are accessible and usable by the broad masses."
I didn't get a direct answer on one of my biggest questions--what Microsoft plans to do come Windows 7 with its built-in tools like Movie Maker, Mail, and Photo Gallery. With Vista, Microsoft shipped each of these in non-Internet connected form as part of the operating system and then offered separate, but related, Windows Live versions.
The company would seem to have a few options come Windows 7. One would be to pull out the programs from the OS and offer only Internet-enabled Windows Live versions. A bold move would be to risk antitrust ire and ship the Live versions as part of Windows 7. Another would be to maintain the status quo.
Hall did make a comment about the declining utility of programs that lack the services component, suggesting to me that the first option might be the most likely, perhaps with links to download the programs as Microsoft does today with Windows Live Messenger.
He also conceded that the current approach is more than a little confusing.
"Today it is not a simple as it could be," he said. "The benefit we have to the approach we are taking is we are iterating on a regular basis."
As for last week's update, Hall did show one neat feature I missed in last week's update to Messenger. Although I noticed the ability to stay logged in on multiple devices (say two PCs or a PC and a phone), I didn't notice that you can now have a short video as your display picture. Also, you have the ability to have a different display picture appear when you type certain emoticons. I think I could have some fun with that one.