Microsoft released on Tuesday a suite of free Web services that connect to its Windows operating system extending its reach on the Internet.
The package of "Windows Live" services, which was first released in a test version in September, makes available in a single download updated versions of e-mail, instant messaging, photo gallery, blogging and event planning applications.
As part of the new software suite, users can access their free Web e-mail through a downloaded desktop application -- similar to Office Outlook used by many businesses -- instead of using a Internet browser to check, reply or write e-mails.
Similarly, Windows PC users with a single click can either save photos to the computer's hard drive or publish and store the pictures on the Web using Windows Live Photo Gallery.
"Today we take a significant step forward in helping consumers simplify their digital lives," said Chris Jones, corporate vice president of Windows Live Experience Program Management at Microsoft. "With over 400 million customers using the service today, we have a real opportunity to help consumers connect their online experiences, devices and networks in new and powerful ways. This new generation of Windows Live brings great enhancements to popular services like Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces while introducing new, fun experiences with digital photos, planning and sharing events, publishing to the Web, and keeping in touch with friends that we think our customers will really enjoy."
Microsoft's solution is to straddle the line between the two with a strategy called "software plus services." The idea is to develop new Web services that complement, but not replace, its traditional software.
By fostering loyalty to its Web services, Microsoft can create a valuable audience to sell to advertisers. Microsoft and its Web rivals like Google and Yahoo are all jockeying to capitalize on the surge of advertising money flowing to the Web.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft sees the market for online advertising doubling in size to $80 billion in two or three years from its current $40 billion.
Microsoft plans a marketing campaign that will highlight the potential benefits of downloading its new Web services suite to work with its new Windows Vista operating system. The new services are available at www.windowslive.com.