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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Plants Another Flag on Spaces

Microsoft  launched Windows Live Spaces today, extending its integration across different components of Windows Live.

The company is talking up Live Spaces as the next generation of its popular blogging and social networking site, MSN Spaces.

But while it has taken a few steps forward into the world of Web 2.0, it still comes up short in certain areas.

One novelty of Live Spaces is that users who are already on one another's Windows Live Messenger contact lists can initiate instant messaging conversations from within the Windows Live Spaces.

Live Spaces also adds its long-awaited friends-of-friends feature, which allows users to meet people beyond their immediate circle of friends.

It also lets users add gadgets, which they can use to personalize their blogs.

And in a bow to current security concerns, Live Spaces makes it easy to customize settings to determine who can see the users' spaces.

The default landing page also includes a highly visible security information page with safety suggestions and a video about predators made by one of its users.

Microsoft also announced that it has launched Windows Live Toolbar, which includes a raft of safety features.

Among those is OneCare Advisor, which protects users from sites that may launch malware or engage in phishing  .

OneCare behaves much like SiteAdvisor, which McAfee  launched earlier this year. Aside from different color schemes on warning labels, it looks almost exactly alike as well.

And like SiteAdvisor, OneCare Advisor is free.

No coincidence there, as Microsoft is competing more fiercely against current and erstwhile partners in areas where it feels its desktop hegemony is threatened.

"Microsoft has substantially increased its competition in a lot of areas to protect Windows and Office," said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch.

Microsoft is also offering a 90-day free trial of Live OneCare. The solution is available as a subscription service.

It costs the same as the recent solution announced last week by Symantec  and Yahoo .

The company has made no secret of the fact that Windows Live and Internet-based, ad-funded software and services are critical to its strategy for driving growth.

The software giant is thus following through on its "all-Microsoft, all-the-time" strategy, with both consumers and businesses in mind.

"Windows Live is a whole lot bigger than the consumer market," noted Wilcox.

He said that giving up on its MSN brand only makes sense in the larger context of addressing both consumers and businesses.

But if Microsoft is banking on Live Spaces to lock down consumers, it's going to have to do a better job in certain areas.

Its feature for discovering friends of friends is much less intuitive, for instance, than the similar feature on MySpace.

It also lags behind MySpace and Flickr in terms of photo quality.

"If Spaces is supposed to be for photos, shouldn't users be allowed to do higher-quality photos?" asked Wilcox.