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Microsoft Begins Beta of Blog Editor

Microsoft has released the first beta test version of its coming entry into the realm of blog publishing tools based on a familiar theme: "What you see is what you get" or WYSIWYG.

With Windows Live Writer, the company is aiming to make the process of composing, updating and maintaining a blog much easier for non-technical users than it has been to date, the company said in a post on the developer team’s blog.

"Windows Live Writer is a desktop application that makes it easier to compose compelling blog posts using Windows Live Spaces or your current blog service," said J.J. Allaire in the post.

The idea is to enable users to easily compose blog pages using a WYSIWYG interface that looks a lot like Microsoft Word. It also aims to make it easy to add elements like photos, maps, music and movies. For instance, a blogger could provide a map with a blog entry that draws data from Windows Live Local maps.

Allaire is well known in blog circles. In March, Microsoft bought his company -- Cambridge, Mass.-based Onfolio -- and has incorporated its RSS-based end-user information collection tool as an add-in to the Windows Live Toolbar.

The move makes sense to at least one analyst, Joe Wilcox, senior operating systems analyst at JupiterResearch, as a move to defend Microsoft's position on the desktop, a concept that goes back to the days of arguments over "thin" versus "thick" clients.

"Microsoft naturally wants to pull relevance back to the desktop ...where Web 2.0 services will rely on browsers, widgets and other light applications, Microsoft will offer its greatest Web service utility through heavy desktop software [and] Windows Live Writer is a superb example and clearly foreshadows where Windows Live is headed," Wilcox said on his blog.

Unlike the Microsoft of years past, Windows Live Writer does not only work with Microsoft's own services and systems – notably Windows Live Spaces. According to Allaire's post, it also supports third-party systems including Wordpress, TypePad, Blogger, LiveJournal, MoveableType and Radio Userland.

Wilcox sees that move also coupled to Microsoft's need to maintain the relevance of PCs and PC software, even as it moves towards its own software as a service future. The competitive threat is that the technology pendulum could swing to services that dwell entirely on the Web, making the PC less important to both businesses and consumers.

Microsoft, instead, has pitched the idea that rich Web-based services can better interlock with sophisticated applications running on the client (in Windows), and provide more capabilities and productivity than can even an enhanced browser-based interface.

"Being a good blogging citizen means that more people could use Windows Live Writer...The company tends to produce its best stuff when there is the greatest perceived competitive threat," Wilcox said.

The company has also released a software developers kit to help third-parties extend Writer to support additional content types such as "images from online photo publishing sites, embedded video or audio players, product thumbnails and/or links from e-commerce sites, and tags from tagging services," according to Allaire’s post. Interested parties can download the beta of Windows Live Writer here. The Windows Live Writer SDK is here.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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