Every once in a while, Microsoft likes to remind the IT world that the company knows how to play to their strengths: Redmond has released Windows Live Essentials 2011, a suite of free desktop applications for Windows 7 that leverages cloud services both inside and outside Microsoft’s own walled garden -- including cloud backup. Here are the potential implications for MSPs.

This suite, which includes Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, a new version of Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, and most notably backup solution Windows Live Mesh, is clearly consumer-focused and seems to have a lot in common with Apple’s iLife. But the channel needs to take note because this Windows Live Essentials represents a major maturation in Microsoft’s cloud strategy.

Details on Windows Live Mesh are fairly sparse, and I don’t have a Windows 7 machine handy to test it out with. But it appears to be directly competing with services like Dropbox and Box.net - while I doubt it has the same functionality, I suspect a lot of users won’t know what they’re missing and it may well be harder to upsell this kind of service.

Where Microsoft tends to like to stay proprietary, with Microsoft products often only working with Microsoft services, Windows Live Essentials 2011 works with social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace, blog platforms like Wordpress.com and Blogger, and even services like Gmail and YouTube from major cloud competitor Google.

Of course, Windows Live Writer works with SkyDrive just as well as it works with those blog platforms I mentioned. But the fact remains that Microsoft has figured out how to turn its desktop dominance into an edge in the war with Google for cloud supremacy, and MSPmentor will be watching with interest.

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