According to various reports, Microsoft will deliver a second public beta version of its Windows Live Essentials 2011 application suite next week, providing users with a look at new features, new icons, and other changes. The release could come as early as Tuesday.
Windows Live Essentials 2011 is the third version of Microsoft's application suite. It provides a number of applications that used to be bundled in Windows as well as other unique Windows Live solutions. These include Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery, Messenger, Movie Maker, Writer, Live Sync, and others.
The biggest change in this release is the elevation of Windows Live Messenger to a central hub for online communications. It provides a "Messenger Social" feed that aggregates content from your connected online services, like Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and many others. This feed is the source for similar "What's New" lists on the forthcoming Windows Phone.
Essentials is part of the "wave 4" series of Windows Live products and services. This also includes the new Hotmail, which Microsoft previously announced it had completed rolling out to its 350 million+ users. According to a support note, however, some people have had issues with the transition to the new version, and Microsoft says a fix is planned for the reported issues.
Windows Live Essentials is expected in final form by the end of 2010 and will run on Windows Vista and 7. (The previous version supported Windows XP.) For more information, please refer to my exhaustive review of Windows Live Essentials 2011. I'll be updating this review to accommodate the changes in Beta 2.