Microsoft has just announced the beta release of its new Windows Live Suite, along with a new unified installer which includes the first public beta of Windows Live Photo Gallery, as well as Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger 8.5, the Windows Live Writer blogging tool, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, and the Windows Live Toolbar.

Perhaps in an effort to compete with Google's bundle of applications, Microsoft is reportedly using the same tactics that made Internet Explorer the default browser among web surfers, tying its Windows Live services directly to its Windows OS. The installer will provide an auto update feature that will keep the services up to date. However, using this unified installer is an option, not a requirement, so the services are not that tightly linked to the OS as IE was, said Matt Rosoff, analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Washington.

While much of the suite has been available to beta testers for some time, this is the first time the suite has been bundled with a unified installation program. More information about the updates is available on Microsoft's Windows Live services website.