By Emil Protalinski | //arstechnica.com
Microsoft has started rolling out multiple updates for the web services complementing Windows and Office. Over the last few months, the software giant has been regularly updating these services, but the number of features just announced implies today’s releases are not a coincidence.
First up we have Office Web Apps, which Microsoft says reached the 20 million user mark (across the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland) in the 100 days or so since its launch. In addition to bug fixes and performance and reliability improvements, Office Web Apps are now available in seven more European countries.
The biggest new feature is that it’s now possible to embed public Excel and PowerPoint documents on your blog or website. Embedded Excel workbooks are automatically updated when they’re updated in Excel on the desktop, while embedded PowerPoint presentations can be viewed in full-screen mode with all the animations and transitions.
The Excel Web App is now supported on mobile devices, joining Word and PowerPoint. The PowerPoint Web App now has an Insert Clip-Art function that grabs photos and illustrations from Office.com’s image library.
Finally, files, there’s now a new “Open in [Office app]” available for jumping into Microsoft Office directly from the online file browser.
Secondly, Windows Live has announced a new partnership with business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn.
LinkedIn contacts are linked to their corresponding Windows Live contacts, enabling existing Windows Live features such as picture tagging and the e-mail address book to include data from LinkedIn. LinkedIn status updates will now be visible in Messenger, just like existing MySpace and Facebook contacts. And just as with those status updates, comments posted from Windows Live will be visible in LinkedIn. Users can also update LinkedIn status from within Messenger, the natural counterpart to the ability to see contacts’ statuses.
Connecting Windows Live profiles to LinkedIn is available immediately. Visibility of LinkedIn contacts in Hotmail has started rolling out already, and will be available worldwide in the next three weeks.
Speaking of Hotmail, there are more updates coming since the first Wave 4 revamp.
Facebook chat support is already coming to Messenger on the desktop and Messenger on the iPhone. Now it’s coming to the web-based Messenger in Hotmail too. The Messenger desktop application is already one of Facebook’s most-used applications; Hotmail integration is likely to further increase the number of people accessing Facebook’s features through Microsoft’s products.
Package tracking numbers will now light up in Hotmail thanks to ActiveViews, which automatically recognize the number and display the real-time shipping status above the e-mail (supported for the US Postal Service and FedEx) or give you a link to the shipper’s website (DHL and UPS).
Another feature provided earlier in the year was the ability to send up to 10GB of photos per e-mail (by sharing them as a new photo album on SkyDrive). This was previously US-only; Microsoft is now rolling it out worldwide. Even better, Microsoft is increasing the total attachment size limit per e-mail to 25MB, up from a measly 10MB. This means that Hotmail finally surpasses the 20MB limits of Yahoo and Gmail.
Finally, for those who actually organize their mail, Hotmail will allow nested folders to be created for even richer management options.
* Office serves over 20 million people on the web (windowsteamblog.com)
* Office Web Apps reach 20 million: New features today (blogs.office.com)
* Connecting like professionals: Windows Live and LinkedIn (windowsteamblog.com)
* More Hotmail updates on the way (windowsteamblog.com)