Microsoft’s killing off the Windows Live brand, which includes its Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive services. The actual services will remain, but they will now be accessed through a ‘Microsoft account’.
Confused? You will be.
Why is Microsoft doing this? According to the company’s blog the aim is to better integrate cloud-based services such as Windows Live into its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, in the same way it plans to integrate antivirus software.
Apparently, once you sign into your shiny new Windows 8 PC, this will give you automatic access to the Microsoft account, which will include email, instant messenger and cloud services. Microsoft’s blog post explains:
‘These services connect to your PC and your Windows phone, they’re accessible from any web browser. Because these services are a part of your Microsoft account, they are shared across all Microsoft products and services; your Windows Phone, Windows 8, Hotmail, Messenger and SkyDrive.’
Does it make sense to kill the Windows Live brand
There’s some logic to what Microsoft is doing. Our Computing Helpdesk often hears from customers with queries concerning Windows Live. Often they don’t understand the difference between Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Hotmail, for example.
The former is an email client, where emails live on your computer; the latter is a webmail service, where your emails live in ‘the cloud’. Presumably, both services will live within the newly-branded Microsoft account.
However, it will be important to make it clear to less experienced users what Microsoft services they can access while online and those that will be unavailable to them when they’re not connected to the web.
Is it just a question of semantics?
There’s nothing new about this concept. I remember when Microsoft first introduced ‘Passport’, its precursor to the Live brand. Microsoft’s vision for its ‘Passport’ was to create a single sign-in to all your web-based services; email, search and third-party services and shops.
Since then the focus has shifted from Passport to the Live brand. And it’s come a long way since its launch in 2005 – Microsoft claims there are 500 million people using services that fall under the Live umbrella. Hotmail has 350 million active users and SkyDrive 130 million.
Is this another name change, or a sea-change?
For those millions of users, including myself, this rebrand raises some questions. Will I still be able to log into my account at Hotmail.com from my Windows 7 PC? I’m guessing the answer’s ‘yes’. And will my email address change to email@example.com? I think that’s a ‘no’.
And how will this affect consumer choice? If Microsoft’s preloading Windows 8 with links to these account services, will this prevent people seeking out alternatives such as Gmail?
All in all, I can see this strategy makes sense for Microsoft, but the big question remains will it make sense to you and me?