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Microsoft prepping next Windows Live

Online services like Hotmail and "Essentials" like Windows Live Photo Gallery will get an update, but the downloadable programs won't run on Windows XP.

Microsoft is getting ready to start public testing of the next version of its moviemaking and photo-editing software, but the company confirmed this week that the products won't run on Windows XP.

The new versions are part of a series of changes coming to Windows Live in the "Wave 4" update to Microsoft's online services. In updating Windows Live Movie Maker, Windows Live Photo Gallery, and other downloadable Windows Live Essentials programs, Microsoft opted to take advantage of the improved graphics engine and other capabilities that have come into the operating system with Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, that meant sacrificing compatibility with the older operating system.

"We just decided that was the right choice," Microsoft Vice President Chris Jones said in an interview this week. Jones said existing versions of the programs will continue to be supported for XP users and online services like Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger will continue to run on Windows XP.

The focus of the updated versions of Movie Maker and Photo Gallery, Jones said, is making it easier to share content. Most people, he said, take far more photos and videos than they actually manage to, or even want to, share.

Included within the Essentials category, Jones said, is also Microsoft's currently varied options for trying to synchronize content and settings across devices. The current lineup includes products such as Live Mesh and Live Sync, among other efforts as well.

"In this update we will bring them together," he said.

Over the coming months, Microsoft will also start public testing of the next wave of online Windows Live services. Microsoft isn't really ready to talk about details of what will be in the next version of those services, though Jones said that the company is focusing on Hotmail and Messenger, while continuing to winnow away other, less popular services.

"No one needs another events service," he said. Microsoft also recently said it was halting e-mail support for Windows Live, instead funneling those with problems to the company's online forums.

In addition to updating Hotmail and Messenger, the next version of Windows Live will be the one that includes the browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote--products known as the Office Web Apps.

Jones said additional details on all the new products will be out over the coming weeks.

"We really want to start the discussion about what's happening with the next wave of Windows Live," Jones said.

One of the key directions, Jones said, is focusing on using the essentials products to connect to other services, rather than trying to push Microsoft's own option for that kind of content. People don't need another photo-sharing service or social network, Jones said. What they want is software that makes it easier to interact with those services.

"How do we make it easier for people to share on Flickr or Facebook or wherever?" Jones said. "That to us is about making Windows better."