Microsoft said it plans to discontinue its Windows Live brand, a catch-all that the company used to refer to a wide range of desktop and Internet services that the company admitted was confusing for customers.
"Windows Live service 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," said Microsoft VP Chris Jones, in a blog post Wednesday. "This created some amount of customer confusion."
Microsoft tacked the Live brand onto a number of disparate services, including authentication (Windows Live ID), storage (Live Mesh and Windows Live Mesh), and e-mail (Windows Live Mail). Adding to the confusion was the fact the company operated nearly identical services--Hotmail, for example--under different brands.
"The names we used to describe our products added to that complexity," said Jones.
With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft will use simple, descriptive names for its cloud services and aim to give users a consistent experience, whether they log in from a PC, tablet, or smartphone.
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Authentication services will be known simply as Microsoft account; storage services will fall under the SkyDrive brand; e-mail will be called Mail app; and contacts and messaging will fall under People app and messaging app, respectively. A number of the services, such as SkyDrive, will activate automatically whenever a user logs in to a device.
"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 experiences," said Jones. "Today the expectation is that a modern device comes with services as well as apps for communication and sharing. There is no separate brand to think about or a separate service to install--it is all included when you turn on your PC for the first time."
Jones said that Microsoft is also working to make it easier for users to connect third-party services, such as Linked In, Twitter, or Facebook, to their package of cloud services. "Your contacts from these networks show up in your contact list, so you can send them e-mail from your PC or call them from your phone."
Microsoft has yet to confirm a ship date for the final version of Windows 8. A so-called Windows 8 Release Preview is set for June.
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