Live.com for the Rest of Us

It’s been about a year and a half since Microsoft first unveiled their suite of applications and portals rolled up under the live.com umbrella. Here at Web Worker Daily we’re Google-biased. We admit it. Why? For starters, many of us web workers prefer browsers like Firefox, Safari and Opera and operating systems like Mac OS X and Linux. Microsoft isn’t known for being particularly friendly to those tools.

One point consistently in favor of Microsoft is that their applications don’t always need an active Internet connection. The lines blur today as Google announces Google Gears, going into previously uncharted territory for Google…unplugged.

Is it game over for Microsoft, or are there parts of the live.com universe to take seriously for those of us not building our working lives around Windows and/or Internet Explorer?

Maybe.

This isn’t a look at all the tools in the Live.com shed, just a few of those that may be applicable for the web worker:

Windows Live Local
Microsoft’s map solution works just fine in non-Microsoft operating systems and browsers, and it has some impressive features. Google is catching up with their new Street View which is currently only available in select locations. On Firefox, Windows Live Local is painfully slow and heavy compared to Google Maps. The Windows Mobile Live Search application is outstanding, for Windows Mobile devices naturally.

Windows Live Hotmail
There are some glitches in Firefox, but overall your @hotmail.com email address doesn’t care what browser or operating system you’re using. For more on the new Live mail web client, read our shootout comparing it to Google and Yahoo.

Windows Live Messenger
If your operating system is anything other than Windows, then move along, nothing to see here. Anyone can have a Windows Live ID (formerly Passport) and use that to chat on the MSN network…using Adium or Meebo, for example. But if you’re looking for the decked-out tools in the new Live Messenger, it’s Windows-only. And full of ads. And bloated. Ultimately, there is nothing in Messenger that a web worker can’t get from other services. It’s catch-up, at best.

Windows Live Writer
Microsoft finally released a new beta version of their blog editor. Yes, it’s Windows-only, but it’s the Windows Live application that may be worth firing up Parallels to use. Of course it’s meant to be used with Windows Live Spaces, but it works beautifully with most blog platforms including WordPress and Movable Type. As a matter of fact, I’m using it to post this very entry. A community of developers working on plug-ins and an improved API make this a top-notch way to keep a blog updated, regardless of the blogging platform.

Are there other live.com services or applications that you find useful without being tied down to Internet Explorer?

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