Microsoft is getting ready to launch a bundled suite of online services, dubbed Windows Live Essentials, that could answer Google's Pack, testers said Monday.
According to a blog posted by Robert Stein and the LiveSide.net Web site, beta testers are being solicited for Windows Live Essentials.
"Windows Live Essentials is a simple way to get a set of these services in one easy download," wrote Stein as he cited an e-mail from Microsoft. "It'll also give you Windows Live Dashboard, which offers a handy view of what services you already have and what new ones are available.
"Would you be interested in being part of the first beta release of Windows Live Essentials? If so, please fill out the beta nomination survey before September 2, 2006, and we'll let you know if you qualify."
LiveSide.net theorized about the strategy behind Essentials. "[It] also has some pluses for Microsoft. Smaller Windows Live products can take advantage of increased exposure and applications are more likely to stay current. There is also the benefit of getting Windows Live products preinstalled on Vista machines via OEMs, as Google have done recently with their toolbar."
Google Pack, which debuted in January 2005, is somewhat similar in that it's composed of several services and applications -- including the Firefox browser and Google Desktop -- but it lacks a dashboard-style management console.
Also on Monday, Google unveiled the beta of a service collection called "Apps for Your Domain" that blends Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Page Creator in a suite for businesses.