With Windows 8 just around the corner, Microsoft is re-thinking where its cloud services will fit into the mix. As a result, Microsoft has decided to kill the "live" branding it places around those services. In its place will be the new, simply named, Microsoft Account.
Yesterday on the Microsoft Deveveloper Network "Building Windows 8" blog, Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, published a post authored by Chris Jones, a vice president of Microsoft's Window's Live group, that provided some of the reasoning behind this decision. Jones states that although Windows Live services are successful, their branding doesn't fit into Microsoft's vision for a fully connected, cloud-centered Windows 8 experience. From the post:
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.
Since Microsoft now thinks there is an expectation that a platform will come with communication and sharing apps, Windows Live accounts will now be called Microsoft accounts, and will be used across all Microsoft cloud services in much the same way that Google uses Google Accounts. Users can log into a Windows 8 device using their Microsoft Account, and will then be automatically connected to the services that were previously "Live" branded such as Hotmail, Skydrive, and Messenger. Microsoft Accounts will also combine billing from services such as the Zune store, Xbox LIVE, and the Windows 8 app store. A Microsoft Account can be connected to social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as well.
As for when the switch to Microsoft Accounts will take place, Jones said, "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." Microsoft has also prepared a video about the pending changes, narrated by Jones, which you can watch below.
As a whole, I think this is a good change for Microsoft, and one that has been a long time coming. I know I've always been confused as to what my Windows Live account is connected to other than my Xbox billing. What do you think? Will this consolidation help Windows users, or will it turn out to be even more of a confusion when users switch to Windows 8? Leave a comment below and let me know.