In-Depth Look: Windows Live

Compiled by Bill Rozell

Microsoft Windows Live (formally MSN) is Microsoft's web portal. While it began as a direct competitor of Google, it has become the portal to web services for Windows users, mainly Windows Vista users.

Many services are enhanced by use of Internet Explorer and extras are available for Windows Vista users. Directly competing with Google, it is more than just their search engine. It is their portal to image search, blogging, personal web space, free beta programs and more.

    Features include:
  • Live Search - The home component. Features a barebones interface similar to Google Search.
  • Live Maps - Interactive, GPS-based mapping featuring simple graphics or satalite imaging. Also directly inspired by Google Maps. An enhanced 3D version is available exclusively for Internet Explorer.
  • Live Gallery - Search for Microsoft official and user-submitted gadgets, tools and plugins for Windows Vista.
  • Live Expo - Classifieds service similar to Craigslist. Searchable from the Classifieds tab in Live Search.
  • Spaces - Features user-interactive services such as blogging, image sharing similar to Flickr and video sharing similar to YouTube.
  • OneCare - Microsoft's online virus/spyware scanner, which also detects other security holes. An offline, installable program also exists but this is not free.
  • Ms. Dewey - Experimental interactive version of Live Search, featuring a video actress with artificial intelligence for answering questions. This sort of fills the gap that Ask Jeeves left once Ask retired Jeeves. Surprisingly, this works will any Flash-enabled web browser, not just Internet Explorer.
  • MSN - The old MSN site still exists as a classic portal for those who still want to use it.

One obvious flaw with this service is that some services only work with, or work "better" with, Internet Explorer. In the past, web developers got away with this since ActiveX content could only be viewed with Internet Explorer. However, nearly all of the Live services are coded in the AJAX language, as are their Google equivalents. This means the applications work the same in all web browsers that are standards compliant. The act of making exclusive services for Internet Explorer is an old habit of Microsoft's that will never seem to die.

Windows Live offers many services under its hood. However, it is clear that nearly all of them are "inspired" by their direct competitors, namely Google. Indeed, even the interfaces for many Live services are very similar to the Google equivalents. Windows Live has taken a life of its own and has grown to offer some of its own innovative services which competitor sites do not have themselves.

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