New Windows Live Services on the Microsoft Drawing Board

Microsoft is slowly but surely showing more of its planned software-as-a-service add-ons for Windows, most of which will be ad-supported. (Microsoft Watch)

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

During his Wednesday night CES keynote, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates offered a few details about some other possible Windows Live services in the wings.

Gates showed off new phones from Royal Philips and Uniden with which users will be able to be used to call Windows Live Messenger buddies via VOIP. They also demonstrated new TV gadgets for managing photos, videos and other content on Media Center PCs and Microsoft IPTV set top boxes.

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

Microsoft did not offer details on availability of any of these new Live services. Company executives have been reticent to discuss when final versions of any of these services will be available for download.

Microsoft also released more details last week on another of its Live services, an online marketplace service designed to compete with eBay and Googles Google Base. That Microsoft service, formerly code-named "Fremont," is now known as Windows Live Expo. Microsoft has not yet opened up the beta program for Live Expo, but it did post new screen shots and information about the service to its Windows Live Ideas page.

Microsoft 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 of the companys business units. The model for these services is Xbox Live, the online gaming service that Microsoft offers to its Xbox console customers.

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