Microsoft said Wednesday that it will ditch its Windows Live branding in favor of an over-arching "Microsoft account."
Windows Live has been around since 2005, and at this point it's used to describe the Hotmail, SkyDrive, and Messenger suite of services, as well as Windows Live Essentials apps.
Though these services are used by more than 500 million people every month, according to Chris Jones, vice president of Microsoft's Windows Live group, "they still did not meet our expectations of a truly connected experience," he wrote.
"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," Jones said.
As a result, there was "customer confusion," Jones wrote, something Microsoft hopes to eradicate with the release of Windows 8 later this year. "Windows 8 provides us with an opportunity to reimagine 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."
Modern devices are all-inclusive, with no separate branding to break up the experience, Jones suggested.
Microsoft's 'Identity Service'
Enter Windows 8 and the Microsoft account, which Jones referred to as an "identity service." It will be used to sign into a Windows 8 PC or tablet, as well as services like Xbox Live, Zune, and the Windows 8 app store. Users won't need a Hotmail account to sign up for a Microsoft account; any email address will suffice. Everyone who signs up will get a SkyDrive account and some free online storage, though.
Jones talked up the cloud component of Windows 8, which will share data across Microsoft products.
"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," he wrote.
This works on different PCs, too. "Log in to a new PC and pick up right where you left off," Jones said.
A Microsoft account can also be connected to other services, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, allowing you to email or call contacts from these services directly.
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.