I too had the honour of being invited to a demo by Microsoft evangelist and Windows Live director Phil Holden. Some found it 'nothing new' others were clearly enthousiastic about what they saw. There were no real extreme novelties, but to me at least it was a good opportunity to get an overview of what's coming up. For a complete report, I gladly refer to my fellow-bloggers:
LVB (full article in het Nederlands), Ine Dehandschutter (short & good) and coolz0r (Full braindump in English). I hope Pascal writes something about this as well, he seemed to be the guy in the room who knew most about the Windows Live features (including Phil and the other Microsoft guys).

Two things I found remarkable:

1. Microsoft has changed.
I heard and read about it already, but it appears to be reality: Microsoft has changed. They are talking with their customers (proof is this blogger-demo), development is done in shorter cycles with new releases every quarter (proof are all the demo versions we get access to, thank you Google) in short: Microsoft is becoming an open and much more agile company. Something Apple can better start learning from (especially the openness).

2. On or off line?
We also got a short demo of Windows Live Mail Desktop, a client-side application that looks a lot like a redesigned version of Outlook. Nothing really spectacular, but I was wondering why the Windows Live team is working on an OFF LINE application. The reasons he gave were two: this was the only way to access multiple mailboxes (?) and for off line use. Not satisfactory to me, so after the speech I approached Phil between a plate of pasta and a not-Belgian beer:
Question: "Why are you developing a client side mail application? I thought the future will be 100% online, the network is the platform, no? I'm actually waiting for Excell to appear in a browserbased version."
Answer (in short): "(smiling) Excell online is more something for Office Live. As for 'everything online' I believe there will always be a client-side component. The internet is by far not ubiquitous yet and it will take time to get there. However there will be an increasing number of applications that mix on- and off line where being online will give access to more features/data/ ...".

Who am I to disagree, but ... I don't thing ubiquitous internet is so far away. Maybe not in America's Midwest, but where the action is, a connection is pretty much everywhere available. Just drive around Brussels and you'll be able to pick up mulitple wireless networks pretty much everywhere, usually at least one is open. And of course there is always GPRS and/or UMTS. So why the hell are they waisting their time on this client side stuff? Beats me ...