Windows Live Messenger 9′s beta has begun, with beta testers getting access to the software on Microsoft Connect. If you applied for the beta, check your email or check Connect to see if you’ve been accepted. Here are some screenshots of it someone leaked out:
The middle screenshots show off the new feature, which allows you to be signed in to your account on multiple computers at the same time. You can even click to sign yourself out of a remote computer from any computer, which is very convenient.
The last screenshot shows off another new feature, which lets you import custom sounds to associate with each of your friends when they log in. Not only can you choose from a list of sounds, you can select a five second sample from any music file on your computer to use that as the sound. The interface for choosing the sample is so clean and simple, I feel it should be integrated into the operating system for all programs to use to manipulate music and video clips.
Also, apparently Live Messenger is dropping Verizon Web Calling for VoIP calls, replacing it with a service to be announced later.
Pingdom tracked 12 top social networking sites from October 19 to November 19, and found that Microsoft’s Live Spaces had the most downtime, with the site failing to respond for a total of three hours over the course of the month. By contrast, that’s more than Facebook (10 minutes), MySpace (10), Bebo (30), LiveJournal (40) and Orkut (85) combined, and worst on the list.
Number one was Yahoo 360, but that service was so unpopular it’s being closed, so I suspect the zero minutes of downtime can be attributed to zero server load.
Microsoft is finally putting together some nice integration of Windows Live services, the latest being the Windows Live Community Builder. This site brings together the various Live tools a website owner can use to create and support a community, promoting the Live Admin Center and helping you bring Hotmail, Live Calendar, Messenger, Spaces and SkyDrive to your users under your own domain name, all for free.
The beta of version 2.0 of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft’s all-in-one PC care service, should be over, with the final version of 2.0 released to all subscribers. The new version adds some really good improvements, like wireless connection security, a startup optimizer to turn off programs that start with your PC that you never use, automatic printer sharing on your network and monthly service reports.
The biggest change, though, is that OneCare is now set up to allow you to designate one of your PCs as a hub PC and connect the others to it (a OneCare subscription is good, at the normal price, for multiple PCs). You can manage the care of the other PCs from the hub, changing settings, scheduling backups and tuneups, and other things.
OneCare 2.0 also adds online photo backup, although for an added price. You get 10 gigabytes of space in Windows Live Folders, automatically synced from your computer, in order to keep your precious digital photos safe in case anything ever happens to your computer. I still don’t see any information on how much this added feature costs, and will look into it.
Windows Live’s excellent Translator service has now released a single line of code that you can add to any website to give visitors the option of translating your website into their language of choice. Just head to translator.live.com/AddIn.aspx, select the language your website uses, and it’ll give you the code. If your site is in English, this will be the code:
Just dump that anywhere in your template (hopefully somewhere people will notice) and your visitors will see a drop-down menu, where they can select usually from up to eleven languages to read the page in (non-English languages will have fewer options).
If you’d like to display flags of different countries as a means of showing translated versions, you can hack the code to link the flags to the proper translation. You’ll need to link the flags to URLs like this one:
The “WEBSITEADDRESS” has to be replaced with the actual web address, or a function that inserts the web address, and “en_nl” has to be replaced with the codes for the original language (“en” for English) and the language being translated into (“nl” for Dutch). To see this page in Dutch, click here.
LiveSide has the details on the Windows Live Admin Center, which replaces the old Live Custom Domains and lets you do more than just use a hosted Live Hotmail domain name. You can now customize all sorts of subdomains to Windows Live services, such as setting a blog.yoursite.com URL to a WIndows Live Space, or setting a maps.yoursite.com URL to a custom Live Maps Collection mashup.
Microsoft has confirmed that a new version of its Messenger instant messaging software will ship with and when Mac Office 2008 hits stores. While we don’t know anything about features, or even if it’ll be named Windows Live Messenger or MSN Messenger (presumably the new name, though), at least Mac fans are getting a new version. Not only that, but work is already going on for Messenger 7, which will be the first Mac version with audio/video capabilities.
You can now get the code for Windows Live Messenger IM Control for your website. This lets you include Live Messenger on your blog, so your readers can send you IMs without needing a screen name, or your customers can ask support questions on any website. The code is extremely simple, will run in any blog that can take a YouTube embed (using a simple IFRAME, rather than SCRIPT tags), and it doesn’t reveal your IM screen name to potential spammers.
Go here to get it.
Here it is, embedded in this post after the break:
It’s after the break, because it seems to break my site template in both IE and Opera, and doesn’t seem to be working. I’ll try to figure out why and fix it. If it does work for you, send me a message to let me know.
It looks like the Windows Live Search Club, the puzzle game promotion that seemed so successful for Microsoft at first, is quickly turning into a PR disaster for the company. The Club, which had searchers play puzzle games in order to win prizes, originally gave Microsoft a huge boost in search engine market share, a gain which has slowly dissapeared entirely in the last few months. Even worse, though, is the anger the Club’s fans are now turning towards the company.
Commenters have been showing up in increasing numbers at my original six month old Live Search Club post, complaining about cancelled or undelivered prize orders, a dead website, removed prizes and bugs. There’s talk of a class action lawsuit, and you can see some more complaints on the Wikipedia Talk page. Has Microsoft screwed up, or is it fighting back so aggressively against cheaters that it is causing a lot of anger among legitimate players?
Either way, we haven’t heard the last of this story. It looks like, in the end, Microsoft had negligible gains from the promotion, and there are a lot of headaches to come from its management, or mismanagement, of same.
If you’ve had a good or bad experience, feel free to post about it in the comments.
Windows Live Wave 2.0 enjoyed its final release today, with a huge amount of websites and software getting new or final non-beta releases. The new Windows Live Installer is out, with new or final versions of Messenger, Mail, Writer, and Photo Gallery, and for the the first time, the installer supports 64-bit systems (but not for Family Safety). You can directly download the installer here.
Windows Live Calendar, available within Live Hotmail, should also be available today to all users. Just sign into your Live ID account, then go to calendar.live.com, and you should be set. Adding events is easy, just double-click on a date, and you can set the basic details (or click to edit advanced options). You can create multiple calendars, with multiple options for sharing or setting co-owners of calendars. I’m enjoying playing around with it the last half hour, and it even sort of/almost works in Opera.
The news you need to know right now: Live.com email addresses are available right now. Not just Live.com, but Live.at, live.be, windowslive.com, live.co.uk and many more. Here is the whole list, courtesy LiveSide:
HONG KONG LIVE.HK
SOUTH AFRICA LIVE.CO.ZA
Head to get.live.com/getlive/overview for all the domains or this link for Live.com email addresses. Now that Live.com email addresses can be linked, you can get the Hotmail.com and Live.com versions of your email, or a better Live.com version, and switch between Hotmail inboxes with a simple click.
Windows Live Calendar, which has been developing in secret for at least two years now, is finally rolling out, with everyone seemingly getting it, just in stages. I don’t have it yet on any of my accounts, but someone at LiveSide has access, and posted screenshots and some thoughts. When I have access, I’ll do a nice review, but until then, here are the things you need to know:
- The interface is clean, very clean. It’s great, but some users will want to skin it.
- You can have multiple calendars, and color them differently.
- You can get reminders for events, with different types of reminders for each calendar. Reminders can be customized and even sent through Live Alerts.
- You can share access and editing of the calendar.
- XML and ICS feeds for calendars.
- ICS importing, including from Outlook and Google Calendar.
- No syncing of private calendars, just shared ones, so you can’t sync your desktop Outlook with Live Calendar to access on the go.
- No interaction with MSN Calendar, no importing or easy way to switch/upgrade.
Microsoft has started a beta test of the new Microsoft Sync Framework, technology that, like Google Gears, will let users keeps using web applications when they are offline. Google introduced Gears in June, five months ago, but has only enabled it in Google Reader (and with few third parties taking advantage of it), leaving the market wide open for someone else to come in with a competing product.
Microsoft’s Sync Framework allows developers to build a sync operation into their web applications, syncing the important data to your computer so you can run that application later without a collection to the internet. Relational databases can be synced to your local filesystem, as well NTFS/FAT file systems and RSS/Atom Simple Sharing Extension.
Offline access to web applications is an important next step in the rise of those web apps, removing one of (if not the biggest) obstacle to adoption by serious computers users. As is, no one has a successful product here, so anyone can come in and at least try to compete, but its the developer partners that are most important, not the strength of the framework.
Microsoft doesn’t want Google’s framework to succeed, because Google’s web apps will one day be big competition for Microsoft Office, and if Google owns this successful framework, that just makes Google Apps that much stronger. If Microsoft owns the framework, it can better position its own future web apps and Windows Live offline, and at least keeps Google from owning the “operating system” of the offline web.
WinBeta published links to these Sync Framework downloads:
- Microsoft Sync Framework CTP1
- Introduction to the Microsoft Sync Framework
- Sync Services for File Systems Whitepaper
- Microsoft Synchronization Services for ADO.NET v2.0 CTP1
- Introduction to Occasionally Connected Applications using Sync Services for ADO.NET
- Sync Framework CTP Books Online
(via Mary Jo Foley)
Windows Live Maps continues to do amazing things with its 3D view, adding an experience that in many ways matches or surpasses Google Earth, all while running in nothing more than your regular web browser. The latest new feature is the ability to add 3D models to the map, a feature Google Earth accomplishes with Google SketchUp, and Live Maps now manages with the 3DVIA Technology Preview, a new, free online application developed by Dassault SystÃ¨mes.
Getting started is as easy as navigating on the map in 3D and clicking Collections, then “Add a 3D model” (alternatively, you could just go here). The software will prompt you to install 3DVIA, which takes a while, but after that you can right-click on the map at any time to add a 3D model, which will launch the software.
Users can create a quick and easy 3D model of their house or other buildings they know, including adding textures and colors, then upload them back to Live Maps and see the model on the map. User-created 3D models can be shared as collections to show friends, but presumably Microsoft will start adding the best ones to the main Live Maps, increasing their stable of detailed 3D models.
I’m amazed that there are buildings in my neighborhood that have 3D models already. Somehow, Queens College, apartment buildings, even largish synagogues in my little slice of Queens have detailed 3D models, with an amazing amount of intricacy. Even my wife’s old apartment in Brooklyn is modeled. I don’t believe for a second that someone modeled these by hand, not with the curved surfaces and detailed diagonal roofs, which means Microsoft’s automated building tech has gotten really advanced. Good for them.
I haven’t been able to get 3DVIA working, in order to compare it with Google SketchUp, but as soon as I get a chance we’ll see which is easier to use. Either way, its another great step towards making Live Maps the most impressive mapping product on or off the internet.
If you’d like to make it easier for people to contact you via your blog (or MySpace or whereever you can post code), Windows Live Messenger has a site where you can create a nice-looking button in seconds that will get them in touch with your Live Messenger screen name. You could even add the button to your email or forum signature, and there are multiple button designs, colors and taglines available to customize it for your needs.
I don’t like that the button’s source code exposes your Live ID, and thus your Hotmail email address, with no effort by Microsoft to obfuscate the email. That’s the kind of mistake Google makes every time it launches a product, and I expect smarter moves from Microsoft. As a result, clicking the button up there will launch an IM window, but you’ll be talking to my good friend firstname.lastname@example.org, not me.
Three months after Microsoft started testing it internally, Windows Live Calendar is getting ready for a more public beta, according to LiveSide. No word yet on whether it’ll be an invite-only, closed or open public beta, but the support and feedback pages are already active, and LiveSide can say that it includes permission-controlled sharing, RSS and iCal sharing, iCal and Outlook importing and event reminders.
SharedView, Microsoft’s screen sharing/collaboration software, has a new beta 2, available, of all places, at Windows Live. Apparently, Microsoft wants users to connect SharedView with office document collaborative work and as a Google Docs competitor, so they’ve positioned it at get.live.com. Beta 2 offers up to 15 people connecting with you and viewing your screen and communication between all parties, with improvements in chatting, sign-on and performance.
Get it from here.
The Virtual Earth blog lists ten cool things about the new Windows Live Maps. They include buildings in the 3D mode that turn see-through when you get to close (and send vibration to your Xbox 360 controller if you’re using it).
Also: When you search an area, it gives you a list of popular business categories in that area, sort of letting you just browse the stores.
Also: “Ghost node editing”, which lets you re-drag line segments to reshape polygons you draw on the map (a feature they admit was inspired by Google Maps).
Also: Traffic conditions now show green for good roads, yellow and red for progressively worse traffic, and a new black color for severe conditions under which the cars aren’t moving at all.
Also: Business details that are category specific, like the number of patients seen by a doctor, the price range and class of a hotel, and the average meal price at a restaurant.
Also: KML files are now available for subscribing to Live Maps Collections. KML is the Google Earth format for impormatting map data, so Live Maps is letting you get your data out and bring it to Google Earth, while Google Maps/Earth is keeping everything inside.
There’s so much interesting stuff going on at the Live Maps blog, I had to subscribe to it.
Windows Live Gallery, where you get Windows Vista Sidebar Gadgets, Live Messenger Emoticons, Winks and Display Pictures, Live.com Gadgets, and SideShow Gadgets, is now letting creators sell their downloads using Microsoft Points. The new ability to charge money will encourage developers to make more Gadgets and other content, and the use of Microsoft Points means Xbox Live and Zune owners have another place to spend their credits.
The site has also been updated to the new Windows Live Wave 2 interface design. LiveSide has screenshots.