Sometimes the biggest news isn’t shouted, but is instead intimated, as it is a pivot from former strategies. So far as I can tell, Windows Live as a brand is over. Microsoft is moving from it to a single-login system that will be a huge boon to Windows 8, and the company’s cloud projects.
Essentially, Windows Live has long been a disjointed bag of hurt; its components were disparate, and hard to use in concert. Microsoft is fixing that problem, and boosting Windows 8 at the same time by moving to ‘Microsoft accounts.’ The login that you use to get into Windows 8 will also be your account login for nearly all your cloud services, from SkyDrive to Hotmail.
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By doing this, Microsoft is solving a branding problem (no one knows what a ‘Windows Live’ is), a cohesion problem (products scattered here and there), and an account redundancy issue (different logins for different systems). The company is building one login to rule them all, and it’s a great move.
Consumers are now going to be given a plethora of services, up front, I suspect via pre-installed Live Tiles on their Windows 8 tablet interface (the ‘Start Screen’), with no work needed. It will just be there, as they will have already logged in via their Microsoft account. As Microsoft notes:
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.
Also, billing is about to unified, meaning that paying for Zune and other services will be brought under the Microsoft account aegis:
Microsoft account is our identity service for individuals who use Microsoft products and services. You can use your Microsoft account to sign in to your Windows 8 PC, and then use the same account to check your billing for services like Xbox LIVE, Zune, and the Windows 8 app store. And your Microsoft account is connected to your Xbox gamer tag so you can track high scores and games. You can sign up for a Microsoft account with any email address, and provide additional verification information including your mobile phone number and a list of your trusted devices.
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.
Windows 8 is likely to land in the October time frame, meaning that it will be in place for the holiday rush. That means that come next January, there will be millions, upon millions of new Windows 8 users, sporting fresh Microsoft accounts. And they will all be SkyDrive users, whether they intended to be or not.
Microsoft, in a single move, has set itself up to explode its cloud services, kill a brand that was, frankly, bad, and bring a big amount of cogency to its huge operating system bet.