Microsoft is expected to field a public beta of its new "Windows Live Marketplace" site, possibly as early as August 28.
Code-named "Agora" – the Greek term for "marketplace," the new one-stop shop may supersede the current "Windows Marketplace" site, according to information from Liveside.Net.
Microsoft officials have blogged that the company is preparing a new version of Windows Marketplace to launch on August 28. But it's not clear whether Windows Live Marketplace will be an adjunct to the revised Windows Marketplace site or an outright replacement for it.
In either case, the Windows Live Marketplace site is expected to strongly resemble Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace. On Xbox Live Marketplace, users can download games, trailers, playable demos, themes and the like. Microsoft also uses the site as a showcase for gaming hardware and third-party Xbox games.
Microsoft officials said earlier this year that Microsoft was moving towards adding a "Points" system like the one used in the Xbox Live world to Windows Live and Office Live.
Points enable micro-transactions between Microsoft and consumers. But Microsoft also is considering extending the Xbox Live points system to cover consumer-to-consumer transactions, as well.
"On the original Xbox Live, transactions had to be around five dollars U.S., the minimum for most credit cards. But with Microsoft Points, the price for most anything—maps, skins, levels, demos, and more—can be much lower than that," according to an explanation on the Xbox Live site. "Though you won't be able to do it for a while yet, Microsoft eventually wants to enable Xbox Live users to buy and sell user-created content, which could prove to be the heart of the 'micro-transaction' system."
Microsoft launched the original Windows Marketplace site in October 2004. On that site, Microsoft features Microsoft-developed and third-party-built hardware and software products. The site includes freely downloadable and paid products, and supports user-authored reviews.
Windows Live Marketplace isn't Microsoft's only venue for getting more Live services in the hands of more users.
On August 25, Microsoft launched a beta test of Windows Live Essentials. Live Essentials, similar to Google's GooglePack, is a bundle of a number of different Live services delivered with a common Dashboard. At least for the time being, Microsoft is not including third-party services as part of Live Essentials; Google includes a number of third-party-developed services in the GooglePack.
Some industry watchers are expecting Microsoft to seek bundling arrangements with PC makers for Live Essentials, via which PC vendors would preload Live Essentials on new machines.
Microsoft officials did not respond to questions on plans for Live Essentials or Windows Live Marketplace by the time this article was published.