Microsoft is dropping the ‘Windows Live’ services brand and instead – to coincide with Windows Phone and the arrival of Windows 8 and the hope of a thriving apps market – will let strong brands like Hotmail, SkyDrive and Messenger fight on their own terms.
Windows Live services are used by more than 500m people worldwide every month.
Hotmail alone has more than 350m active users and 105 petabytes of storage. Windows Messenger has 300m active users while Sky Drive has more than 130m users, with 17m of those uploading files every month, explained Microsoft’s software boss Steve Sinofsky in the Windows blog.
He said Windows Live Essentials apps are among the most popular apps of Windows – including Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker. Windows Live Mail is second only to Microsoft Outlook in terms of Windows mail apps.
“While these results are certainly noteworthy, they still did not meet our expectations of a truly connected experience," Sinofsky said.
“Windows Live services and apps were built on versions of Windows that were simply not designed to be connected to a cloud service for anything other than updates, and as a result, they felt ‘bolted on’ to the experience. This created some amount of customer confusion, which is noted in several reviews and editorials. The names we used to describe our products added to that complexity: we used ‘Windows Live’ to refer to software for your PC (Windows Live Essentials), a suite of web-based services (Hotmail, SkyDrive, and Messenger), your account relationship with Microsoft (Windows Live ID), and a host of other offers.
“Windows 8 provides us with an opportunity to re-imagine our approach to services and software and to design them to be a seamless part of the Windows experience, accessible in Windows desktop apps, Windows Metro style apps, standard web browsers, and on mobile devices. Today the expectation is that a modern device comes with services as well as apps for communication and sharing. There is no ‘separate brand’ to think about or a separate service to install – it is all included when you turn on your PC for the first time," Sinofsky explained.
Going from Windows Live ID to ‘Microsoft account’
Sinofsky said a new Microsoft account system is being rolled out over the coming weeks, replacing the previous Windows Live ID.
He said the intention is to allow Windows users to use a single Microsoft account as an identity service to sign into their Windows 8 PCs and use the same account to check billing services like Xbox LIVE, Zune and the Windows 8 app store. This will also be connected to users’ Xbox gamer tag to track game scores.
“We’ll be rolling out the change in nomenclature from Windows Live ID to Microsoft account over the next several months across our product line. There are still some areas we continue to work on such as migrating your account (credit cards and purchase history) from one market (currency) to another if you’ve connected your account to services such as Xbox LIVE," Sinofsky explained.
Sinofsky outlined an ambitious plan by Microsoft to be in every sense a user’s personal cloud. This is an obvious attempt by Microsoft to offset the emerging cloudnets in the form of the Google ecosystem and Apple’s iCloud ecosystem.
“When you connect a device or service to your Microsoft account, you’re automatically provisioned with a set of cloud services, including a contact list, calendar, inbox, instant messaging, and cloud storage.
“Of course these services connect to your PC and your Windows Phone, they’re accessible from any web browser, and they’re accessible to different apps if the developer of the app implements our API. Because these services are a part of your Microsoft account, they are shared across all Microsoft products and services. For example, your contact list is shared across Windows Phone, Windows 8, Hotmail, Messenger, and SkyDrive, so when you add a contact in one place, it shows up in the cloud and on all of your other devices and services.
“Windows 8 also uses cloud services to roam settings across your PCs so you can log in to a new PC and pick up right where you left off. Along with a Microsoft account, everyone gets a SkyDrive, which is cloud storage for documents, photos, your phone’s camera roll, and settings from your PC. SkyDrive powers the Windows Phone camera roll, so every picture you take is automatically copied to your cloud photo album," Sinofsky said.