Windows Live Wave 3: What’s next?

Well we’re through the first round of Wave 3 news, awaiting our next big push starting in a little more than a week from Microsoft’s Professional Developer’s Conference (PDC) in LA.  We’ll be there, of course, and we’re going to attempt to join up with some of our friends and live-blog the keynotes, more about that later.  In the meantime, we thought we’d take a quick look at where we stand now and what to expect from this ongoing Wave 3 release.

What’s Wave 3?

First, a bit of a history lesson: Windows Live started off with a bang in November 2005, rebranding a number of services, most of them under the MSN brand at the time, to Windows Live.  New services popped up all over the place, all named Windows Live this or Windows Live that.  There were as many as 40 Windows Live services or more, so many it was hard to keep track.

Microsoft finally came to grips with the problem with a release of Windows Live Wave 2 in November 2007, consolidating services and introducing a unified installer for what was becoming the core of Windows Live: Live Mail; Messenger; Writer; Photo Gallery, and the toolbar and Family Safety.  Work continued on restructuring Windows Live in 2008, dropping some services, revamping others, and adding new ones, and in September we got the first taste of Windows Live Wave 3. Windows Live Movie Maker was added to the installer, Calendar was added to Live Mail, and the core services received a sparse, clean new look.

And there’s more to come.  Most of the new online services, which have undergone arguably much bigger changes than the desktop pieces, haven’t yet been introduced.  Windows Live Hotmail is making a peekaboo appearance,  “rolling out” over the next number of weeks or months, some of our readers have it already.  We’ve touched on some of what’s to come already, so let’s take a look at what we know so far.

Timeline

Thanks to our friend Claudia from Italy, we now know that Windows Live Groups is set to go live on November 17th, and MSN Direct was kind enough to provide the final launch date (which of course may change between now and then) for Messenger (now in beta) as February 10th of next year.  While it may be stretching it to assume that the Wave 3 desktop services would follow suit and go final on that same day, it’s certainly not out of the question.

It’s a little less clear when the other services will be introduced, but we could hope for as early as Nov 17th as well.

Eric Doerr already explained that Windows Live Movie Maker won’t keep the same schedule as the other services, but of course it better be ready by the launch of Windows 7, as it is slated to replace Windows Movie Maker.

Oh, and we haven’t spent much time on Windows Live OneCare lately, but a new version 3 of OneCare should be coming soon.  Will it launch to coincide with a new version of Microsoft’s Small Business Server, which includes Windows Live OneCare for Server and is set to launch on Nov 12th?

What to expect

The Windows Live Wave 3 we’ve seen so far, with the exception of Calendar in Live Mail, has been pretty much an incremental upgrade, with performance enhancements and a new look, but nothing radically different (Messenger of course has included some new features, many of which aren’t fully functional as yet).  The second half of Wave 3 is set to be a bit more exciting.  Here’s some of the highlights, gleaned from what we’ve seen so far, with some “educated guesses” thrown in as well:

wave3header_thumb_36050f3f Featured News

What’s New feed – We’re already seeing the What’s new feed in Messenger, and already a lot of work has gone into improving this service in Spaces in the past year or so.  Expect a whole new emphasis on What’s new, reaching far beyond what’s going on in Spaces.

Photos – Brian Hall talked to Robert Scoble about exposing Photo Email beyond email itself, making it possible to share photos sent through email to others from a web based interface.  We also expect Photos, especially as we’ve seen it as a separate tab in the new Wave 3 header, to be separated from Spaces, unlocking Photos to be utilized across the Windows Live web without having to manage them from Spaces.

Profile / People – Think of Profile as your definition of you on Windows Live, and People as the definition of the people and groups you interact with.  Spaces holds much of this information now, but expect both People and Profile to be greatly expanded, and exposed across Windows Live (check out the Wave 3 header, above).

Windows Live Groups – A somewhat successor to MSN Groups, but really much more.  Expect the Groups feature that we see in Messenger to have, well, expanded capabilities.  Think of Windows Live Groups as MSN Groups + Messenger + Events, and you’re getting close.

Windows Live Sync – The new name for FolderShare.  We’re as interested as you to see where Microsoft is taking Live Sync, and how it relates to Live Mesh (aside from sharing the same Feedsync architecture). 

Spaces – So let’s see, while of course Spaces will still have Photos integration, Photos is basically out, as is Profile, if we can believe the Windows Live headers we’ve seen.  What’s New, too.  What’s that leave?  A leaner, meaner Spaces?  We can only hope.

SkyDrive – SkyDrive is set to take on a greatly expanded role in Windows Live.  We’ve already seen hints that it will harbor a synced Favorites stash, which leads us to think that there’s more to come there (where will Photos live if they don’t live in Spaces, for example?).  

Windows Live and Windows 7: It all starts to come together

In what may be the biggest change for Windows Live so far, although not specifically Wave 3, will be in the way it “lights up” Windows 7.  The redundant services between Windows and Windows Live (Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, at least) are being removed from Windows 7.  We may even see new Windows 7 features like Multi-Touch make their way into Windows Live (we heard some of this was demoed at MGX).  Windows 7 users will have to choose (in some manner) to use Windows Live for their Mail and Photos, or perhaps choose another service.  We should know a lot more after PDC about the nuts and bolts of how this will work, but expect Windows Live to be a tightly integrated and almost necessary piece of Windows 7.

A Note on names

While writing this we came across some information that may suggest naming changes for some of these services.  However nothing is final in that regard, and while some of these services may end up receiving new names, it probably won’t change much about how they work.

The Road Ahead

After what could politely be described as a shaky start, four years later we’re starting to see the promise of Windows Live be fulfilled.  We should know quite a bit more after PDC, but by this time next year, hopefully the shenanigans of all this secrecy and “OMG don’t talk about our products!!!!” foolishness will be behind us, Windows 7 will be up and running, and we’ll have our hands on the real Windows Live.  Can’t wait!