03/05/2012 17:09 | By Matt Farrington-Smith, editor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Microsoft rename 'Windows Live'; gear up for Windows 8 release

Microsoft's suite of free online services and software gets a name change: introducing the 'Microsoft account'.

Microsoft welcomed its suite of free software and online services known as Windows Live into the world on 1 November 2005.

Windows Live Essentials. Image MSN

Windows Live is comprised of Hotmail, Messenger, Essentials and SkyDrive - all individual elements in their own right but brought together to form a coherent package. A press release read: Windows Live would "bring together in one place all of the relationships, information and interests people care about most, with more safety and security features across their PC, devices and the web."

With Windows Live services still being used by over 500 million people every month, Microsoft have taken the forthcoming release of Windows 8 as an opportunity to reimagine their approach to online services and software.

The "Building Windows 8" engineering blog sheds some light on this decision and the rationale: "to design them (Windows Live software and services) 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."

Signing up for a Windows Live ID. Image MSN

"Bolted on" experience

Chris Jones, VP of Microsoft's Windows Live group provides further explanation:

"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..."

Chris continues: "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."

One ID for all

At present we use a Windows Live ID to sign into our Hotmail account, Messenger, SkyDrive and other Windows Live Essentials software and services. We also use this ID to register a new Windows Phone and to set-up an Xbox LIVE gamertag.

Going forward your Windows Live ID will be referred to as a Microsoft account. Your Microsoft account will be used to sign into your Windows 8 PC and also act as a passport to a collection of cloud services that will accompany you wherever you go. Your contact list, calendar, inbox, instant messaging and cloud storage are available on any device or service you connect to your Microsoft account.

You will be able to 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.

Windows 8 also ingeniously uses cloud services to enable syncing of personal settings across multiple Windows 8 PCs and devices. Finally, your Microsoft account will be connected to your Xbox account, Zune and the Windows Store.

Windows 8 will use your Microsoft account to sync your settings.

Windows 8 will use your Microsoft account to sync your settings to multiple devices.

Gone but not forgotten

Although Windows Live is being phased out, your software and services will remain the same (don't worry, your Hotmail account is going anywhere!)

If you have installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview you'll have had a chance to preview the Metro style apps for Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Messaging, and SkyDrive. Note: these are purely preview apps, the finished articles will more than adequately replace the Windows Live Essential equivalents.

Windows Live's popular Family Safety software will be a built-in feature of Windows 8 accounts and no-longer requires a separate download.

Windows 7 users will still be able to use a suite of Windows desktop apps. These will include Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mail, Messenger, Family Safety, and desktop SkyDrive app.

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