Last night saw the first Windows Live Session in the UK, hosted at MSN London. Phil Holden gave some good demos of Windows Live beta products as well as outlining the history and intentions behind them. Several MSN UK staff were present too, some of whom had actually read LiveSide :-)
It would take to long to post everything that was discussed, I'll draw your attention to some key points:
– Mail's best and worst feature is the new UI according to user feedback, so we will probably be seeing the introduction of a "Classic" layout. Think tickboxes and less AJAX. The team is also working on a horizontal preview pane, though we shall have to wait and see whether this makes the next public release. Expect to see the next build, M5, sometime within February.
– As noted by the guys at SearchChamps this week, there will be a minor update to Live.com within the next few days. Updates include embedded images displaying as thumbnails (Screenshot), better resizing of large images and some performance improvements as well. On top of that they are working on several new gadgets, one of which is an MSN InfoPanet gadget showing information about MSN services (similar to what is displayed on MSN.com.)
– Expo (formerly Fremont) is looking beta ready, though there are still no ads on it yet due to the limited screen real-estate they have to play with. Dare I say it but maybe this will force them to introduce text ads. We shall have to wait and see. This service will be expanded to other email domains within the next month, so if you work for a large company in Seattle you might be in luck. Although the payment methods have yet to be finalised, Phil confirmed that Expo would not see the construction of a new Microsoft payment system. We were told that Expo integration with Spaces should happen within the next few weeks.
– The Messenger Beta is continuing to expand rapidly, with over 200,000 users now participating. The team is still looking to scale this up some more, so if you want to try it out, signup here.
– We got to see a non-working version of the Phillips Messenger phone. Despite being quite small, the screen is a good size. Microsoft is taking VOIP seriously, expect to see more developments in this area throughout this year.
I also took the opportunity to interview Phil about Windows Live. Although the mp3 isn't available yet, you can subscribe to our podcast feed. If you want your podcasting client to automatically retrieve any files we post, then you should subscribe to this.