So as many have no doubt heard it looks like Microsoft are planning to remove Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Windows Mail from Windows codename "7".
Instead what will be expected is for people to use the Windows Live suite of applications, which now includes Movie Maker (a much stripped down Movie Maker in its current form), as well as a e-mail application which can tie in with Hotmail (which the built in Windows one never could) and a photo gallery application.
I've got a few concerns with this, firstly does this mean Windows won't come with an e-mail client? Or, will the current build of Windows Live be included on the Windows disc and refreshed with service pack releases?
I understand the reasons for Microsoft reducing the duplication from having an OS e-mail client and a Windows Live one and so on, but when you're talking about removing things we've expected an operating system to have for the last 15 years you need to look at what you're doing from an end user perspective, and for the average end user that will mean being confused and not being able to find their e-mail program.
There are some advantages, such as more frequent updates. The Windows team are largely tied into the Windows release schedule, the Windows Live team have their own schedule so updates can be rolled out more rapidly.
But, to date I have not replaced any of the built in programs such as Windows Mail or Photo Gallery with their Live alternatives on my system. I have Live Photo Gallery installed, but I only use it for when I want to use one of the specific features I need, such as panoramic stitching.
This is because it looks different to the regular version of Photo Gallery, the Wave 2 release had a bright blue UI, and had its layout changed around a bit. The result was an application that did not blend in well with the rest of the Windows Vista, resulting in me continuing to use the regular Photo Gallery as the default. Not only that but Live Photo Gallery wanted to change the generic image icons to something other than the default system ones. There are few things more annoying, and confusing to end users than having the icons for things change. Such behavior is overly invasive.
If Microsoft are going through with this plan, they need to ensure the applications blend in well with the system, and that they don't tinker with things like icons in newer releases. If I can sit down at a Windows "7" system, and after a few releases of the Live suite not be able to spot any differences in the look and feel of an application - maybe they could get away with it. The Windows Live applications must not look like a crappy add-on bolted on the side of Windows, it must look and feel like Windows itself.
Lastly, advertising. Microsoft should come out and say that they will not feature advertising in any future versions of Live Photo Gallery, or Windows Live Mail, or the others. Unless the end user is making use of services with a back end in the cloud, namely Hotmail, Messenger etc. I pay good money for Windows, I don't want future versions to feature advertising in components that have historically been included with Windows.
Hopefully we'll have these concerns addressed at the PDC later this month.