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E-mail, photo programs stripped from Windows 7

Instead of including a successor to Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery, or Windows Movie Maker, the next Windows version will push users to download Windows Live programs to handle those tasks, CNET News has learned.

Microsoft has decided that Windows 7 won't include built-in programs for e-mail, photo editing, and movie making, as was done with Windows Vista, CNET has learned.

The software maker included Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Mail, and Windows Movie Maker as part of Vista, but later chose to offer separate downloadable Windows Live programs that essentially replaced those components with versions that could connect to online services from Microsoft and others.

Microsoft told CNET News late Monday that it has decided to remove those features entirely from Windows 7 and instead offer only the service-connected Windows Live versions as optional free downloads. Earlier on Monday, Microsoft had declined to say how it was handling things.

In a follow-up interview on Monday, Windows Live general manager Brian Hall said Microsoft made the decision to remove the tools from Windows for several reasons, including a desire to issue new operating system releases more quickly than it has in the past. The move also removes the confusion of offering and supporting two different programs that perform essentially similar functions.

"It makes it much cleaner," Hall said.

Lastly, he said, making the Windows Live tools completely separate from the operating system paves the way for Microsoft to work selectively with specific partners.

"We can do things with specific partners to enable really great experiences that might be hard in Windows," Hall said.

Antitrust rules make it hard for Microsoft to tie operating system features to specific services.

Microsoft last week rolled out the latest "Wave 3" releases of its Windows Live programs, adding Windows Live Movie Maker to the mix of programs, which includes Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Mail as well as blogging tool Windows Live Writer and instant messaging program Windows Live Messenger. While Windows XP and earlier releases had an instant messaging program built in, Microsoft took out that feature in Windows Vista.

Hall said it was too soon to say if the "Wave 4" release would precede Windows 7 or be coincident to it. Microsoft has said it will have Windows 7 on the market by January 2010, while CEO Steve Ballmer has said he is pushing for a release next year.

"We'll do Wave 3 and then we'll figure it out," Hall said.

It remains to be seen just how Microsoft will distribute the Windows Live programs in conjunction with Windows 7-based PCs. Presumably the company could strike deals with computer makers or retailers to include the software, or links to download it.

Click here for more news on Windows 7.