Windows Live Messenger, the “Installer”, and XP64bit, so what’s the deal here?

Yesterday, another one of our favorite but seemingly long lost Windows Live blogs, Inside Windows Live Messenger, posted (first time since Dec. 5, woohoo!) an announcement that version 8.5 of Windows Live Messenger is to be pushed out to anyone who hasn’t upgraded yet, through Windows Update.  But as an aside, one that seems to be setting off a little firestorm, the Messenger team wrote:

A special note for those of you running Messenger 8.5 Beta on Windows XP 64-bit or Windows 2003 Server: the final version of Messenger 8.5 will not install or run on your OS. We don’t want you to get stuck out in the cold so you will not receive the mandatory upgrade to the final version. However, these operating systems won’t be supported by future Messenger versions. You may stay on your current beta version, or to get to a more stable final version we recommend that you uninstall Messenger 8.5 and go back to Messenger 8.1.

Now Long Zheng, and Jonathon Kay, and Raphael Rivera, and others, I’m sure, are all up in arms: starting petitions even!

OK so there are two issues here: one is that at some point Windows Live made a decision to install a “suite” of Windows Live apps through, and only through, their installer.  There has been some speculation that this is purely a marketing ploy to force allow people to try other apps in the suite when they are looking for just, for example, Messenger, or Windows Live Photo Gallery, or whatever.  And for whatever reason, the installer doesn’t work with XP64-bit: that may be because one of the apps in the suite, Windows Live Family Safety, doesn’t work in XP64 bit (or didn’t, I haven’t checked recently and don’t plan to).

It’s well known that there’s an easy workaround: the installer uses individual MSIs to install the individual apps, and the MSI for Windows Live Messenger 8.5 installs just fine, and works well, on XP64-bit.  Now this is not “supported”, by MS, for whatever lame marketing reason, but it works just fine.  We wrote it up quite a while ago, during the beta (actually at the urging of some nameless product team members who weren’t very happy that their app suddenly wouldn’t work any more).  It still works.

The second issue is the unfortunate wording in the Inside Messenger blog entry – “Messenger 8.5 will not install or run on your OS”.  Well it will, we know it will, it works just fine.  Just the installer doesn’t work, for whatever lame reason.  Maybe it’s because the Messenger team is so out of practice in writing blog posts (try it, it’s catching on! – just ask the Spaces team!), or maybe it’s just that they like to feel disconnected from their users.

Now we’re sure there are probably other factors at play in not supporting Windows Live Messenger 8.5 and beyond on XP64-bit, of course one is that support for the OS is nearing an end as well, so why bother.  The issue here isn’t about supporting it, it’s saying it won’t install when it will.  Posting misleading, condescending, and insulting lies misinformation about what does and doesn’t work, especially in this era where every Joe or Long has a blog and can call you on it, is uncalled for. 

You can post a comment on the blog entry, or sign Jonathon’s petition