Microsoft offers a range of services such as email and messaging under the banner of Windows Live, but that is about to end, shifting instead to a tight integration with Windows 8 that will drop the Live name and become an invisible part of Windows 8.
In a blog post, Microsoft acknowledges that the current way of offering Windows Live services seems disconnected from the operating system and its applications, but that changes with Windows 8.
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Windows Live consists of Hotmail, SkyDrive and Messenger, but these will be better integrated via applications that appear as part of Windows 8, according to Chris Jones, VP of the Windows Live group, writing in the Building Windows 8 blog.
In the post, Jones admits that Windows Live seemed cobbled together. "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," he writes.
Plus the name Windows Live was applied willy-nilly, causing confusion. "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," he writes.
Jones says that with Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to make all the Windows Live services seem like features of a tightly integrated hardware-software package, available out of the box in Windows apps, Metro apps, browsers and on mobile devices.
"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 writes.
Making Windows Live features seem integrated requires setting up a Microsoft account and logging into it when logging into Windows 8. This automatically logs Windows 8 applications into the Microsoft cloud. This enables, for example, syncing account settings across different PCs.
Other apps that are included are an address book, calendar services, photo and document storage, and a mailbox. Access to these services, once they are set up, become part of the features of any Windows 8 device a customer logs in from.
Before, these were called Windows Live Essentials and were a distinct bundle, but Windows 8 redesigns them in the Metro style so they are integrated with the desktop.
For example, looking at photos via the Windows 8 photo app includes those photos stored in SkyDrive that are automatically synchronized with the PC. But this linking to cloud repositories isn't limited to SkyDrive. The Windows 8 photo app also ties into Facebook photos, for example, if users choose to, as well as LinkedIn and Twitter.
There is a separate SkyDrive app that enables looking through shared documents in SkyDrive.
These same apps are also available via Windows Phones and via Web browsers. Photos taken on smartphones are automatically stored in SkyDrive, for example. Developers can create Metro apps that also tap into these cloud services through use of LiveSDK.
Here's a list of what Windows Live services used to be called and the applications they fall under with Windows 8:
-- Windows Live Mesh, Live Mesh and Folder Share become the SkyDrive App or SkyDrive Desktop.
-- Windows Live Mail and Outlook Express become the Mail app.
-- Windows Live Mail and Windows Calendar become the Calendar app.
-- Windows Contacts becomes the People app.
-- MSN Messenger becomes the Messaging app.
-- Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker become the Photos app, Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.
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