Microsoft says the Windows Live brand unveiled in 2005 to describe the software giant's set of online services and software will be retired when the company launches its Windows 8 operating system.
There will be no separate brand for Microsoft customers to think about or a separate service for them to install, said Windows Live Group Vice President Chris Jones. "It is all included when you turn on your PC for the first time," Jones wrote in a blog post Wednesday.
The brand makeover is a requisite component of Microsoft's strategy for enabling its cloud-based services to run seamlessly on next-generation PCs running Windows 8 as well as mobile handsets empowered by the latest version of Windows Phone.
"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," Jones said.
We asked Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC, for his views on Microsoft's cloud strategy.
"Microsoft is trying to forge a large online user ecosystem out of its PC franchise, Hilwa said Thursday. "This will allow it to compete better with the major mobile and Web ecosystems, and opens the door for a variety of services that can be made available with minimal friction to signed-in users."
Making the Windows Experience Seamless
Popular Windows Live services and apps such as Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive were built on versions of Windows that were simply not designed to be connected to a cloud service for anything other than updates, Jones said.
"As a result, they felt 'bolted on' to the experience [that] created some amount of customer confusion," he said.
The software giant's new approach to online services and software is 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," Jones said.
Over the next several months, Microsoft customers will be able to acquire a single identity called a "Microsoft account" for accessing whichever online services and software they elect to adopt.
"Using any of these services is optional, and you're welcome to mix and match them with the software and services you choose," he said.
Across-the-Board Data Sharing
Hilwa said the disappearance of the Live moniker is a smart cleaning of clutter around branding for Microsoft.
"But the key here is the way the various services are weaved together to create value for the user," Hilwa said. "The battles for Web users and mobile devices are essentially being strategically yoked together."
For example, whenever a Microsoft account holder snaps photos using a camera-enabled Windows Phone handset, the images will be automatically uploaded to the individual's SkyDrive. Additionally, SkyDrive will make it easier for users to share and collaborate on Office documents -- either using Office Web Apps or Office client applications, Jones said.
Developers also can use Microsoft's SkyDrive APIs to provide an even deeper level of roaming and support in their apps if they choose.
"Through the innovative features of Contracts and File Pickers in Windows 8, you can access your SkyDrive data from within any Windows 8 Metro-style app," Jones said.
Microsoft also is supporting third-party developers through the Live SDK, which enables developers to cloud-power their Metro-style apps, or apps and services for other platforms.
"Our APIs use standard and familiar protocols including OAuth 2.0, JSON, REST, Exchange ActiveSync, and XMPP," Jones said.