Windows Live Service Status page gets an update, now tracking Live ID and Family Safety

As part of the latest SkyDrive update today, as we predicted earlier, the rest of Windows Live web services received an update too, up to Wave 5 M2 (version 16.2). As part of this update, Windows Live Service Status, the website that allow you to keep track of the current status of Windows Live services, received an updated too:

Windows Live Service Status

The update means that the service is now located at http://home.live.com/status, different from the previous status.live.com. Besides an URL change, the website itself also received some minor enhancements, now reporting real-time service status of Windows Live Family Safety and Windows Live ID as well. Given that Windows Live ID will become a core part of the upcoming Windows 8, it makes sense that this service needs to be monitored closely and provides the latest status info to its customers.

You can check out the new Windows Live Service Status website now at http://home.live.com/status.

Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion; creates new business division

microsoft skype

The rumors were right. Microsoft announced on May 10 that it bought Skype, an Internet communications vendor, for $8.5 billion.

Instead of trying to mash Skype into an existing Microsoft business division, the company has decided to create a new, separate Skype business division, with Skype CEO Tony Bates as the newly minted President. Bates will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In its press release announcing the deal, Microsoft played up the potential synergies between Skype and its own communications offerings, including its Lync VOIP platform, Outlook mail, Messenger instant-messaging, Hotmail Web mail and Xbox Live gaming service.

“Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms,”
said the release.

Microsoft offered no timetable or further details as to when and how it will make Skype available as part of any of its existing product offerings.

According to earlier reports, Microsoft was bidding against Google and Facebook for Skype. As my colleague Larry Dignan noted, the $8.5 billion Skype purchase price made for one expensive game of keepaway.

Today’s deal with Skype marks Microsoft’s largest acquisition (dollar-wise) in the history of the company. For the past couple of years, Microsoft execs seemingly had decided that Microsoft’s history of assimilating successfully its big acquisitions (aQuantive, Danger, AdECN, Bungie, etc.) was not so great, resulting in the company shying away from anything but relatively minor, targeted acquisitions

  • Xbox 360 Kinect + SkypeTV: There is already a video chat feature on the Kinect but a Skype-login and interface could encourage more people to make this a part of their Xbox experience. Skype is already on some televisions so integration with the Xbox seems to be a good fit.
  • Windows 7 OS + Nokia + Skype: This could be quite a powerful combination as more and more smartphones are equipped with front-facing cameras and make use of the 4G network, which means video calls will only become the norm on mobile devices. Plus, it gives the partners an edge against Apple’s proprietary Facetime application. Skype users are also able to send SMS messages from the Web to handsets so this could be a great bonus for future customers with Nokia phones running Windows 7.
  • MSN Messenger + Skype: Hopefully, Messenger will be replaced with Skype because IMing on Skype is a breeze but uninstalling Messenger from machines running Windows is a hassle. The combination of Messenger and Skype users will give G-Chat and Google Voice some competition (perhaps to finally roll out to more countries)
  • Outlook + Skype: By integrating your Skype contacts with your email address book to make voice and video calls, Microsoft is looking to the beefed up Outlook to better compete with Gmail/G-Chat/Google Voice.
    MS Lync, Xbox Live + Skype: These new groups will expand Skype’s user base, according to the press release.

Last night, AllThingsD reported that Microsoft dealmaker Charles Songhurst was key in helping Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer broker the Skype deal. Interestingly, Songhurst also was credited with helping convince the Microsoft brass to call off the Yahoo acquisition.

More Hotmail Changes with Windows Live Wave 4

The most recent official voice from Microsoft is Brian Hall. He is the General Manager of the Windows Live Business Group and in a recent Windows Team Blog post he mentioned three features in the upcoming release of Hotmail under Wave 4:

Removing text from the bottom of messages sent from Hotmail – We’ve seen a lot of feedback regarding the text that gets added to the bottom of email messages sent from Hotmail and some other email providers. In the image above, you can see an example of this text, “Hotmail goes with you. Get it on your BlackBerry or iPhone.” We call this text a tagline, and we’d like to address this pretty simply – we’re getting rid of it.

Don’t open our email? We’ll stop sending it. If you aren’t engaging with our email, our goal is to stop sending it to you, except in the cases of critical account updates or service notifications where we don’t want you to be surprised. We’re also making our opt-out options more prominent.

More relevant email. Targeted email improves your experience by keeping you up-to- date on the upgrades, changes, products, and services you use. So we’re improving the relevancy of the email we send by taking into account which services you’re using and what you have or haven’t clicked in the past.

Single-use Code in Windows Live Hotmail Wave 4

One of the features of the Wave 4 version of Windows Live Hotmail is the Single-use Code feature.

This is a code you can use in place of your password when your at a public place like an Internet Cafe or public library. Just one more step in helping to protect yourself from nasties that might be on those public machines.

Here is how you go about getting and using a single use code:

At the sign in page for your Windows Live Hotmail account you will notice a new entry below your email address and password Sign in with a Single-use code.

Click that link and you will then get the following dialog:

Click on the Request a code and that in turn will lead to this page:

You will need to set up your Windows Live ID account with your cell phone number for this to work. That is because you are sent the Single-use code via a text message. Make sure you do that now before you are out and about needing that Single-use code because you will not be able to get it any other way except via your cell phone.

Once you have the Single-use code just start with the sign in screen and this time you can enter your Windows Live ID and the Single-use code you received via text and then sign in safely and securely.

Windows Live Hotmail Changes Coming

More update information is coming from Microsoft and this time it is in the form of an email from Dick Craddock who is the Microsoft Program Manager for the Hotmail Partner Group.
This email highlights some of the major changes coming to your Hotmail inbox:

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming.

Keep your inbox free of spam
Using the same Microsoft SmartScreen® technology used in other Microsoft products like Microsoft Office Outlook® and Internet Explorer®, Hotmail is automatically helping to filter out junk mail for you.

Sweep away unwanted email
As you complete email actions like deleting email or moving email into folders, the new Sweep tool will prompt you to see if you wish to automatically apply that action to all similar email in the future.

Send hundreds of photos without worrying about size limits
We’ve built a way to send up to 10 GB of content via a single message—up to 200 photos or 200 files of up to 50 MB in size each. When you hit send, we deliver a nicely formatted email with a link to where the photos are stored on your password-protected Windows Live™ SkyDrive™. Recipients can then easily view your photos as a slide show or download them to their computer.

Smart filters organize your inbox to find the email that matters
Hotmail Quick Views will sort and group email by content or sender into one list in your inbox. Now items like your Facebook updates, or your cable TV bills, or just the mail containing photos can be easily sorted with just a few clicks.

View entire email conversations at a glance
With the new Conversation View, you can automatically group all the email you have sent and received on a specific topic together in one view.

Respond to social network notifications without leaving Hotmail
When a friend or family member sends you a link to a YouTube video or a Flickr photo album, you can view it without leaving your inbox. You’ll also be able to take actions on shipping notifications as well as social network invites.

Open, view, and edit documents right in your inbox
Now the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files in your inbox can be viewed and edited without leaving Hotmail. If you need to make edits to an attachment, Hotmail lets you do it from your inbox without worrying about downloading files or installing software. You can even start a PowerPoint slide show and it will include all the animations and transitions.

Share Microsoft Office documents online and work together with others
Just like how you can share large photo albums, Hotmail lets you send large documents and other files via a link—up to 200 files, each up to 50 MB—using online storage, so you avoid clogging anyone’s inbox. And by sending from your Hotmail account, recipients can also use the free Microsoft Office Web Apps to view and edit your document—no matter what email service they use or version of Microsoft Office they have installed.

That’s just a peek at what we’ve been working on for you. Look for these updates and many more over the coming weeks as we start delivering them to your Hotmail account.

The Hotmail Team at Microsoft

I have seen these new features in a demo session and they are impressive. I just wish I knew what exactly the time frame coming weeks meant to have a better idea of when these changes will be published to everyone.

Let us know when you see these updates in your Hotmail inbox.

Windows Live Engineering Blog Gets Rolling

While we took a little time off for the holidays (and moved web hosts), we didn’t want to miss commenting on Inside Windows Live, the new Windows Live engineering blog over at the Windows Blog.  We decided to hold our tongue after a welcome post and the obligatory we’re not going to talk about the future post got the blog off to a bit of a slow start, and we’re glad we did.  Even though we missed commenting on this latest post from just before Christmas, we think it’s too good to miss.

In A peek behind the scenes at Hotmail, Arthur de Haan makes up for the first two posts with some very interesting numbers about the massive scale of a project that is Hotmail.  de Haan lays out some of the facts:

  • We are a worldwide service, delivering localized versions of Hotmail to 59 regional markets, in 36 languages.
  • We host well over 1.3 billion inboxes (some users have multiple inboxes)
  • Over 350 million people are actively using Hotmail on a monthly basis (source: comScore, August 2009).
  • We handle over 3 billion messages a day and filter out over 1 billion spam messages – mail that you never see in your inbox.
  • We are growing storage at over 2 petabytes a month (a petabyte is ~1 million gigabytes or ~1000 terabytes).
  • We currently have over 155 petabytes of storage deployed (70% of storage is taken up with attachments, typically photos).
  • We’re the largest SQL Server 2008 deployment in the world (we monitor and manage many thousands of SQL servers).
  • Microsoft needs to talk more about the services they have to offer, in our opinion, and we think it’s great that the new blog is beginning to do just that.  Congratulations again to the Windows Live team for getting this off the ground, keep up the good work and can’t wait for more!

    How To Fix – “Windows Live Writer requires the installation of the .NET Framework” Error .

    In an unavoidable circumstance, I had to rebuild Windows Vista OS today.  After rebuilding the OS I noticed the recent Technology Preview of Windows Live Writer is no more part of my Start Menu Programs list. I searched for installation folder of Live Writer CTP under program files, but no luck. Seems to be it was erased while rebuilding the OS.

    The only option I had is to download and reinstall the CTP of Windows Live Writer. I headed to Writer Zone blog and downloaded the installer. Up on launching the Installer, I was greeting with a following error message

    Windows Live Writer requires the installation of the .NET Framework. Please install this before installing Windows Live Writer

    windowslivewriterinstallationerror-thumb

    Surprised to see this message and verified whether .NET Framework is installed or not. As I’m a .NET software developer, I always have the latest .NET Framework installed on my laptop. Versions 1.1, 2.0 & 3.5 are installed on my Laptop. So problem is not related to .NET framework but something else.

    I Googled for solution on the Internet but seems to be not many people are facing this type of problem. I did not get any information that can help me to solve the issue.

    Then I decided to try my luck by first uninstalling the older of Windows Live Writer and then install the new Live Writer CTP. Luckily it worked :) . Now I’ve the latest version of Windows Live Writer installed on my laptop.

    Hope this post is going to be useful for someone who faces similar kind of Installation problem with Windows Live Writer CTP