Microsoft today is releasing the final version of its new set of Windows Live apps, including updates to its photo- and video-editing programs, as well as synching and blogging tools.
The Windows Live Essentials 2011 apps have been in testing since June and are available for download from Microsoft's site. The collection includes Windows Live Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Messenger, and Mail, along with Windows Live Mesh, Family Safety, and Writer.
Microsoft also plans to announce that Dell will be the first global PC maker to start including the programs preloaded on its PCs.
Without a new release of Windows, Microsoft is counting on the updated versions of Windows Live to help boost holiday PC sales. Microsoft announced on Monday that it was getting rid of its Windows Live Spaces blogging site and will instead transfer users to WordPress.com. WordPress will also be the default blog option within the Windows Live Writer blogging program that is part of the new app suite.
Stephen Sinofsky, president of the Windows unit, said in an interview earlier this month that Microsoft plans to tout the hardware acceleration of its Windows Live Essentials as an example of how Windows adds power on top of a generic Web experience.
"There [are] some really exciting and innovative things in it, and they also tap into the power of hardware," he said. "Movie Maker and Photo Gallery are all hardware-accelerated and do a really great job using accelerated video and accelerated graphics in general."
The photo program adds a number of features including face recognition and the ability to combine multiple group photos, choosing the best shot of each person to create a new, better family photo. Microsoft is also adding more options in Photo Gallery and Movie Maker for uploading to other services as part of a concerted effort to focus not just on its own Web services, but also more widely used services, such as Facebook.
Messenger, which got an updated beta last month, now allows users to chat with their Facebook friends--the first major IM program to do so, while Movie Maker can now upload to Flickr.
Windows Live Mesh, the synching program, combines elements of the prior Live Mesh preview and Windows Live Sync. Earlier this week, Microsoft posted a beta version of Windows Live Sync for the Mac (Guess they didn't get the memo on going back to the Mesh name.)