blowhard season up in Redmond these days, as the latest word from Microsoft on its Live Essentials suite of apps has been accompanied by the brash pronouncement that it's now markedly superior to Apple's efforts in Mac OS X -- at least when it comes to photos. This verdict was delivered by Brian Hall, General Manager for Windows Live, and is backed by a laundry list of new features we can expect by the holiday season of this year. Windows Live Photo Gallery and Movie Maker will soon be able to link up directly to sites like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube -- which will allow for painless uploads as well as pulling in any additional tagging done on Facebook. New photo stitching and retouching abilities, along with face recognition (rather than mere detection) are also being touted, but the ultimate arbiter of the new software's utility will obviously be the real hands-on experience for users. We shouldn't have to wait too long for that, as a beta version of the freely downloadable (on Vista and 7, XP holdouts are no longer being served) suite should be making the rounds in the coming weeks.