Gates Drops Live Hints

Microsoft Corp. didn't show off many new Windows Vista bells and whistles at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

Microsoft Corp. didnt show off many new Windows Vista bells and whistles at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. But company officials did drop hints about some of the new Windows Live add-on services in the pipeline.

Windows Live is the brand name for the growing family of services, many of which originally launched under MSN, that will be add-ons to Windows. Most of these services are expected to be free and ad-supported.

Microsoft announced its plans for Windows Live in early November and is beta testing a handful of Windows Live services, including Windows Live Local, a mapping service; Windows Live Messenger, an instant messaging update; Windows Live Mail, a Web-based e-mail service; and Windows OneCare Live, a PC-protection/backup service.

At CES, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates offered a few details about some other possible Windows Live services in the wings. Gates showed off new phones from Royal Philips Electronics N.V. and Uniden America Corp. with which users will be able to call Windows Live Messenger buddies via VOIP (voice over IP). Also demonstrated were new TV gadgets for managing photos, videos and other content on Media Center PCs and Microsoft IPTV (IP over television) set-top boxes.

Microsoft officials also mentioned that there is a Windows LiveTV Recommendations service in the works that will allow customers to rate shows, improving their TV personalization experience over time.

"[This] is going to be a big year for digital lifestyle," Gates said. "Software is providing the power, but software has [also] got to provide simplicity."

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has not specified how many Windows Live services the company ultimately expects to field, but, according to some sources, there may be as many as 50 such offerings on the drawing board. Microsoft officials also have said they plan to field complementary Office Live services, as well as other add-on-service components from nearly all the companys business units. The model for these services is Xbox Live, the online gaming service that Microsoft offers to its Xbox console customers.

Microsoft nemesis Google Inc. was expected to launch last week a competitor to Microsoft Live, known as Google Pack. Reportedly, Google Pack will include the Firefox Web browser, Symantec Corp.s Norton AntiVirus, Adobe Systems Inc.s Adobe Reader, RealNetworks Inc.s RealPlayer, Cerulean Studios Trillian and Lavasoft Inc.s Ad-Aware. Googles own desktop search, Google Earth, Picassa photo management software, Google Talk IM and Google Toolbar wares also are expected to be part of the downloadable bundle.