It may be hard to believe that Microsoft is prepping a version of Windows without e-mail, calendar, and instant messaging apps. After all, some of those features have been bundled with Windows almost from the start; with Vista, the list got longer, including additions such as Windows Photo Gallery and Vista Parental Controls. But Microsoft officials say the plan for Windows 7 is to deliver a lean operating system that lets you add the features you like, choosing Ã la carte from a suite of Windows Live Essentials programs you download.
Some applets are already available in beta form at download.live.com; more are expected to debut in mid-November. All have (or will have) hooks to free services such as online file storage, photo sharing, and collaboration tools.
Windows Live general manager Brian Hall says that stripping accessory programs from Windows will allow Microsoft to focus on the development of the operating system and streamline its support (service packs should be smaller-and possibly fewer-for a smaller OS). Hall adds that a "cleaner" operating system eliminates potential confusion for customers faced with two different programs that are similar in function-one already in Windows and the other from Windows Live.
When Windows 7 is available, Hall says, Microsoft will work with PC makers to place a desktop shortcut that will link to a download page where you can choose just the programs you want. Here's a list of what's available now from Windows Live.
â€¢ Windows Live Messenger beta: This instant messaging application has phone- and video-calling capabilities too.
â€¢ Windows Live Mail beta: In this e-mail program, you can merge multiple e-mail accounts. It also includes a calendar that syncs with a Windows Live Web-based calendar.
â€¢ Windows Live Photo Gallery beta: Similar to Google's Picasa, this photo organizing and basic photo editing program has hooks to Microsoft's Windows Live Photo Gallery as well as to third-party photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.
â€¢ Windows Live Movie Maker beta
: This video editing software also automates the creation of movies from your own photos, videos, and music. The application can burn video to CD/DVD, or convert it for viewing on a cell phone or for posting online at Microsoft's Soapbox video-sharing site.
â€¢ Windows Live Writer beta: An application for composing and publishing blog entries to Windows Live Spaces, it also works with other blogging platforms, including Blogger and WordPress.
â€¢ Windows Live Family Safety: Through this parental control software, parents can limit the type of content that their children can access online and monitor their surfing activity.
â€¢ Windows Live Toolbar: This updated Internet Explorer toolbar enables fast access to Windows Live Web services.
Tom Spring of PC World contributed to this story.