live 300x236 Windows Live Essentials 2011 ReleasedMicrosoft today has released Windows Live Essentials 2011 for download. The updated suite includes Messenger, Photo Galley, Movie Maker, Mail, Writer, Family Safety, Live Mesh, Messenger Companion, Bing Bar, Outlook Connector Pack and Silverlight.

The new Live Essentials suite will work on Vista and Windows 7 but not on XP, with Dell being the first PC manufacturer to ship with the software preloaded, according to CNET.

As we reported on earlier in the week, WordPress.com has replaced Windows Live Spaces, and WordPress.com is set as the default option in Writer in this version. Other improvements include Facebook posting and face recognition in Photo Galley, and multiple options to share videos in Movie Maker, including YouTube and Facebook. Also, Live Essentials includes hardware acceleration, which should almost certainly improve performance in many of these tasks.

The added support for Facebook is especially interesting in that it would seem to further deepen the relationship between the two companies by basically bringing Facebook to the desktop for Windows users. Combine the Facebook integration with WordPress.com and integration into other web-based sites and it would certainly seem to us that Microsoft is taking the right direction here – why fight with consumers over the services they want to use when you can simply better enable them, right?

We’re downloading now and will update this post if we find out anything further after giving it a test drive.