Microsoft yesterday released a new bundle of free services meant to complement Windows 7 and Windows 8. Now known as "Windows Essentials" rather than "Windows Live Essentials," it adds some new capabilities, but also removes Live Mesh from the PCs of those who install it.
Microsoft has used the "Windows Live Essentials" name to refer to the bundle of services that has included Windows Live Mail, Messenger, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, Family Safety (parental controls), Writer (its blogging tool) and Mesh (its PC sync service). Microsoft released the 2011 version of its Windows Live Essentials bundle in mid-2011.
The 2012 version of the Windows Essentials bundle includes updated versions of Movie Maker and Photo Gallery. Mail, Messenger and Writer are all still in there, but don't seem to have been updated much, if at all, based on comments from those comparing the new Windows Essentials 2012 bits to the Windows Live Essentials 2011 ones. (If you've downloaded it and found anything worth noting in other components of the new bundle, please chime in below in the comments.)
There is one change though that some users are discovering by unhappy surprise. Microsoft is replacing Live Mesh with SkyDrive, its cloud storage service, on the PCs of those who install Windows Essentials 2012. (Microsoft acknowledges this when users click on a link in the original post that says it leads to more information on what's new in Movie Maker and Photo Gallery.)
Microsoft has been hinting that it was going to send Live Mesh to the graveyard for a while now. But as a number of those using Live Mesh have noted, while SkyDrive includes a number of the same features as Live Mesh, it omits others. And some of these other features are ones that many Live Mesh users are unwilling to do without. With Live Mesh, users can sync between PCs without going to the cloud to do so. And with Mesh, users have more granular control over how much of their content they sync, something they don't have with SkyDrive.
When I asked Microsoft officials in the past if the plan was to replace completely Live Mesh with SkyDrive, a spokesperson would say only: “As we discussed recently, we are excited to bring the DNA of SkyDrive and Mesh together to provide our customers with seamless access to their content. We think you will find SkyDrive to be increasingly useful over time.”
Here are Microsoft's warnings on what Live Mesh users should expect if they download Windows Essentials 2012:
"If you have Windows Live Mesh installed, it will automatically be removed if you install the new Movie Maker or Photo Gallery (available as part of Windows Essentials 2012).
"Microsoft SkyDrive will be installed in place of Windows Live Mesh. To sync folders from the cloud to all of your PCs, you will need to install SkyDrive on all of your PCs or Macs."
If you don't install Windows Essentials 2012 on any of your PCs, Live Mesh continues to work as usual. f you have uninstalled Windows Live Mesh, you can still reinstall it, as it is still available as part of Windows Live Essentials 2011, according to Microsoft. Microsoft also notes users cannot install and run both both Windows Essentials 2012 (with the new Movie Maker or Photo Gallery) and Windows Live Mesh on the same PC.
With those caveats, it's back to what is new in the Windows Essentials 2012 Movie Maker and Photo Gallery components.
Movie Maker, when used on Windows 8, can now smooth out wobbly videos. It also now includes the ability to add music from AudioMicro, Free Music Archive and the Vimeo Music Store (all with the appropriate rights secured by Microsoft) or from a user's own PC to user-made movies. The new Photo Gallery now has an Auto Collage feature. It also allows users to share videos straight to Vimeo from Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.
Update: LiveSide.net has a good list of all the new features in Movie Maker and Photo Gallery.
This story was first posted as "Microsoft Live Mesh users: Read the Windows Essentials 2012 fine print" on ZDNet's All About Microsoft blog.