A new Windows Live Essentials public beta will have deep hooks to multiple social networking, media-sharing, and Web mail services, as well as the new Office Web Apps, Microsoft announced Wednesday. The public beta will be available starting Thursday at the Windows Live site, although Microsoft has yet to say at what time.

The Live Essentials update focuses on making Windows more Web-friendly, without leaving users on the hook for uninstalling programs they don't want their computer to come with. The new betas of Windows Live Messenger, Writer, Mail, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery will all connect to multiple cloud-based services. For social networking, they will hook into Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace; for media-sharing, they will connect to Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, SmugMug, and SkyDrive; there will be Web mail sharing via Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. There will also be connections between the Live Essentials tools and the new Office Web Apps, and blogging hooks for Blogger, WordPress, and Spaces.

The new betas will debut more than just cloud-based enhancements. Windows Live Sync will now come with a remote desktop feature, placing it in direct competition with popular tools like GoToMyPC, TeamViewer, and LogMeIn. Windows Live Photo Gallery is going to come with retouching features, as well as a stitching tool for creating panoramas and an option called "PhotoFuse" for merging multiple photos. Windows Live Mail will see a "Photo Mail" option that allows users to share up to 10 gigabytes of photos via an e-mailed link. Meanwhile, Windows Live Movie Maker's "AutoMovie" tool, which automatically adds titles and music to your already-shot movie, receives a boost to 20 preset themes.

Windows Live Essentials will no longer run on Windows XP, as Microsoft continues to throw its weight behind pushing users to Vista and Windows 7. E-mail support for Windows Live will be discontinued, too. Instead, Microsoft will redirect users to its knowledge base and support forums.

Until Thursday, Windows Live fans will have to sate their curiosity with this preview from Microsoft of the new features.