As detailed within Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog earlier today, the software company is giving up the “Windows Live” brand and looking to combine all Windows services into a single Microsoft account. Similar to Google’s approach of using a single Google+ login for a variety of Web services, Windows 8 users will use a Microsoft account to sign into a PC or tablet. The Microsoft account will also be used to check billing within the Windows 8 app store as well as Zune and Xbox LIVE services. Microsoft accounts won’t be tied into Hotmail and users are free to use any email address to activate a new Microsoft account. In addition, users will be able to create a list of trusted devices tied to the account.
Many of the Windows Live services are simply being renamed to a generic equivalent for the sake of simplicity. For instance, MSN Messenger will become “Messaging App,” Windows Contacts will become the “People App,” Windows Live Mail and Outlook Express will become the “Mail App,” Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker will become the “Photos app, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker,” and Windows Calendar will become the “Calendar App.” Designed for continuity across devices, these new names will be the same on Windows 8 computers, Windows Phone devices and the Web version of Live.com.
Beyond simple branding, Microsoft is also pushing the cloud computing features that will be tied into a Microsoft account. According to Windows unit head Steven Sinofsky, he stated “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.“
This allows users to add information to one device and it will show up on all devices connected to the Microsoft account. For instance, a Windows Phone user could add a contact to their phone while attending a business function and the contact information will appear on their Windows 8 PC automatically the next time they login with their Microsoft account. SkyDrive will also tie heavily into cloud sharing. On a Windows Phone for instance, SkyDrive has been integrated into the camera roll and automatically copies all new photos to the cloud photo album.
Microsoft will also allow third party services such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect to the Microsoft account. Contacts within these services can be loaded into the People App, thus allowing a user to email a connection on their LinkedIn account or call up a Facebook friend, assuming that the Facebook contact has provided a phone number. Microsoft has opened up the Live software development kit for third parties to create their own Metro style applications that will tie into the Microsoft account. Microsoft plans to offer more details regarding the implementation of the Microsoft account in the coming weeks.