In late 2005, Microsoft announced the formation of its Windows Live division, which would integrate online services and applications that were previously branded with MSN more closely with its core Windows products. (I examined MSN in a previous retrospective.) This would entail more than rebranding, however: Previous MSN products were redesigned with a more consistent look as they changed in Windows Live products, both with other Windows Live products and services, and with Windows itself.

Of course, the big question at the time was whether the spunky, fast-moving MSN group would be overrun by the slower, more monolithic Windows division. Years later, it's sort of a toss-up. On the one hand, Windows Live continues to ship new products and revisions at a pretty decent clip, though it's nowhere near the pace set by MSN. And despite promises that moving applications out of Windows and into Windows Live would result in more frequent updates, the reality is that those applications--now called Windows Live Essentials--are updated just as slowly as is the core Windows product.

Regardless, the idea behind Windows Live is a good one and it's not surprising that this brand exists to this day. What's interesting in looking back at these early days of Windows Live is the sheer number of products that didn't make it: OneCare, Spaces, Folders, Live Mesh, and Events are gone or at least dramatically different today (and don't confuse the original Live Mesh with today's Windows Live Mesh despite the name).

This retrospective covers the first three generations, or "waves," of Windows Live products and services, covering roughly the period from 2006 through 2008. (This happens to include the period during which Microsoft tried, unsuccessfully, to purchase Yahoo.) As with previous retrospectives, newer articles are at the top.

A Look at the Windows Live Wave 3 Applications - September 30, 2008

Microsoft's Windows Live Wave 3 consists of new and updated Windows Live applications, new and updated Windows Live cloud services, and new and updated Windows Live mobile solutions. In this article, I'd like to focus on the applications, most of which are now available in beta form from the Windows Live Web site.

Windows Live Calendar Wave 3 Screenshot Gallery - September 23, 2008

While Microsoft is focusing on its Windows Live Wave 3 applications suite at the moment, the company is also forging ahead with Wave 3 updates to its Web services. First up: Windows Live Calendar. Here are some screenshots.

Windows Live Wave 3 Preview - September 23, 2008

Windows Live Wave 3 is a "product wave" that will eventually encompass all of the platforms for which Microsoft makes Windows Live products and services. This includes the PC, the web, and mobile devices. At this early stage in Wave 3, however, all I can discuss is the PC side of things, which involves a new version of the Windows Live suite that first shipped late last year

Windows Live Wave 3 Beta Screenshot Gallery - September 17, 2008

The Windows Live Wave 3 Beta has leaked to the Web. Here are some screenshots of the new product suite. More info to follow.

Sync Windows Live Contacts with Windows Vista and the iPhone - August 19, 2008

There is an obscure and largely undocumented feature in Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft's consumer-oriented instant messaging (IM) solution, which allows users who have bought into the Windows Live experience to pretty seamlessly synchronize their contacts across an unprecedented number of end points, including, ultimately, even Apple's iPhone.

Managing Your Life in the Clouds: Putting It All Together - August 17, 2008

From what I can see, Microsoft's offerings are the most comprehensive and cohesive. No, Windows Mobile hasn't generated the same level of excitement as has the iPhone (heck, even the Blackberry has somehow managed to wrestle mindshare from Microsoft's mobile platform). But Microsoft offers a set of solutions that work across all of the necessary platforms: The PC, the web, and mobile. If you're looking for a fairly seamlessly plug and play type experience, it's not a bad way to go.

Managing Your Life in the Clouds: The Microsoft Experience - August 13, 2008

At the time of this writing, Microsoft offers a comprehensive but incomplete cloud computing experience that provides web-, desktop-, and mobile-based access to most of its offerings. In this sense, Microsoft's PC history has paid off, with the company seizing on mobile and Internet opportunities as they arose and embracing and extending their core experiences.

How-To: Live Mesh Peer-to-Peer Folder Sync - August 10, 2008

I'm a huge fan of Live Mesh, Microsoft's burgeoning cloud computing platform. Currently, Live Mesh offers two major bits of functionality, both of which are highly useful: Folder sync and remote desktop. Here's how folder sync works, and how I use this feature.

Windows Live Calendar Update - August 1, 2008

Microsoft has recently made two quiet, small, but important updates to its online calendaring effort, Windows Live Calendar. These changes include an update to its Web-based Live Calendar, which is typically accessed via the Hotmail Web site, and a new beta version of the Outlook Connector software, which allows you to access Windows Live Hotmail, Contacts, and, now, Calendar via Microsoft's popular Outlook application.

Live Mesh Tech Preview Screenshot Gallery - April 23, 2008

Microsoft's Live Mesh service allows you to sync one or more folders between multiple PCs and a cloud-based desktop. Here are some shots of the new service, currently in a pre-release technical preview.

Windows Live SkyDrive Overview and Screenshot Gallery - February 23, 2008

On Thursday, Microsoft took its free Windows Live SkyDrive online storage service out of beta, and added a few significant enhancements. Chief among these is a boost to the service's storage space: When the SkyDrive beta began last year, Microsoft was allotting users just 512 MB of space. Now out of beta, SkyDrive offers a more reasonable 5 GB of storage space.

Microsoft + Yahoo? An Analysis of Microsoft's Blockbuster Offer for Yahoo - February 2, 2008

On Friday, February 1, 2008, Microsoft unexpectedly announced a massive $44.6 billion offer to purchase ailing online giant Yahoo. Since that time, I've been analyzing how this attempted takeover will affect Microsoft and the consumers who use the various online products and services made by both companies.

Windows Live OneCare 2.0 Review - December 4, 2007

Windows Live OneCare has had a rocky history, but what gets lost in all the silliness is that this product is trendsetting, innovative, and effective at what it does. The latest version, Windows Live OneCare 2.0, is the best yet, and it fixes most of my complaints with the lackluster 1.6 version while adding a suite of new functionality that complements the built-in security and PC health features found in Windows Vista. If all you've heard about OneCare is how bad it is, I've got a news flash for you: None of that is true.

Windows Live Suite Review - November 18, 2007

I think of the products I'm reviewing here as the Windows Live suite, and I'll continue to use that term throughout this review in order to differentiate these products--which are downloaded and installed locally on Windows-based PCs--from the multitude of other Windows Live offerings. But regardless of the confusing terminology, one thing is very clear: Microsoft's software + plus services strategy is now a reality.

Windows Live Calendar Beta First Impressions and Screenshots - November 11, 2007

Windows Live Calendar is Microsoft's answer to Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and other standards-based iCal-type calendar solutions. Sadly, this first public release falls short of what I'm looking for in a calendar service, so hopefully we'll see some improvements in the weeks and months ahead that make it as useful as the competition.

Windows Live Events Screenshot Gallery - October 17, 2007

Here are some screenshots of Windows Live Events, Microsoft's new online service for planning and managing events between two or more users.

Windows Live Suite Preview - September 10, 2007

This past week, the Windows Live group shipped a public beta version of a consumer oriented suite that provides us with the first glimpse of how Microsoft's software + services vision can become a reality. I call it Windows Live suite, with a small "s" because it's not properly part of the name, and while this first version is heavy on software that integrates with Web-based services, future versions will provide a handy and direct front-end to Microsoft's online services as well.

Windows Live Suite Beta Screenshot Gallery - September 5, 2007

Here are some screenshots of Microsoft's beta Windows Live suite, which bundles Windows Live Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer, Toolbar, OneCare Family Safety, and other related products and services.

Windows Live Hotmail August 2007 Update Screenshot Gallery - August 17, 2007

Here are some screenshots of Microsoft's August 2007 update to Windows Live Hotmail.

Windows Live Hotmail August 2007 Update Review - August 14, 2007

Microsoft this week updated Windows Live Hotmail with some pretty hefty improvements. This is notable for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the company just issued the latest Hotmail version back in May, just three months ago. And that update came after many, many years of testing.

Windows Live SkyDrive Beta Screenshot Gallery - August 10, 2007

Here are some screenshots of the beta version of Microsoft's upcoming online storage solution, Windows Live SkyDrive, formerly known as Windows Live Folders.

Windows Live Folders Beta Screenshot Gallery - August 1, 2007

Here are some screenshots of the beta version of Microsoft's upcoming online storage solution, Windows Live Folders.

Windows Live OneCare 2.0 Preview - July 14, 2007

Windows Live OneCare 2.0 adds significant new functionality and capabilities to what was already a unique and full-featured product. The best news is that it's available to one and all, right now, as part of a public beta program.

Windows Live OneCare 2.0 Beta Screenshot Gallery - July 11, 2007

Here are some screenshots of the beta version of Microsoft's upcoming security suite revision, Windows Live OneCare 2.0.

Windows Live 2007: A Look at the Next Generation - June 27, 2007

Today, I'd like to discuss Microsoft's evolving plans for Windows Live, and examine how the software giant will, hopefully, meet the needs of its customers by supplying a sensible set of services that work where you do: On the Web, on Windows, and on mobile devices.

Windows Live Hotmail Review, Part 2: Windows Live Mail and Outlook Connector - June 13, 2007

Windows Live Mail is dramatically nicer than either Outlook Express or Windows Mail, and it includes a lot more useful functionality, especially if you're a Hotmail user. Outlook Connector is Microsoft's solution for integrating Hotmail email into Outlook 2003 and 2007, its premier email and personal information management (PIM) client.

Outlook Connector for Windows Live Hotmail Screenshot Gallery - June 12, 2007

On Monday, Microsoft shipped its new Outlook Connector beta for Windows Live Hotmail. I'll be reviewing this product, and the related Windows Live Mail Beta release, together this week. In the meantime, here are a few shots to tide you over.

Windows Live OneCare 1.6 - June 8, 2007

How could such a great idea be implemented so poorly? When Microsoft released its initial version of Windows Live OneCare back in early 2006, I thought it was pretty darned good. Windows Live OneCare 1.6, however, is another story, and is among the most annoying software I've ever installed on my PCs.

Windows Live Mail Screenshot Gallery - May 21, 2007

Once called Windows Live Mail Desktop, this new client offers a superset of the functionality in Outlook Express and Windows Mail. But unlike the Vista-based Windows Mail client, Windows Live Mail supports Windows Live Hotmail Web mail, as well as POP3 and IMAP email sources.

Windows Live Hotmail Review - May 7, 2007

Hotmail is being significantly upgraded with new underpinnings that Microsoft hopes will last for a decade. Now rebranded as Windows Live Hotmail, this new Hotmail version is poised to deliver where other Windows Live services, thus far, have fallen short.

Windows Live Messenger Review - August 1, 2006

Windows Live Messenger, the successor to MSN Messenger, is the finest IM solution available. And thanks to some recent upgrades, it's now compatible with Yahoo Messenger and even VoIP-based phone calls.

Windows Live Mail Beta Screenshot Gallery - July 19, 2006

A collection of screenshots of Microsoft's upcoming desktop email client, a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail.

Windows Live OneCare Review - March 31, 2006

Rumors of Microsoft's involvement in the PC health and safety market began appearing several years ago, back when Windows Vista was still called Longhorn and was expected to ship in 2003 or 2004. Pulled from Vista, this service began life as MSN OneCare back when MSN was still the hub around which most of Microsoft's online products and services were introduced. But it's since become known as Windows Live OneCare in keeping with the branding used for the other Windows Live offerings.

Windows Live Messenger Preview - March 14, 2006

As perhaps the most visible and eagerly awaited of Microsoft's "rolling thunder" series of Windows Live-related releases, Windows Live Messenger, the follow-up to MSN Messenger 7 is perhaps the perfect example of what the software giant is getting right these days.

Windows Live Preview - January 18, 2006

For the most part, the Windows Live services match up with previous projects from MSN, which had been pulled into the Windows division at Microsoft during a late 2005 reorganization. Two months later, it's not clear how this combination of Windows and MSN will turn out.