Windows Live, R.I.P.

Windows Live appears to be on its last legs, with Windows 8 ushering in a new generation of monosyllabic, Metrofied analogs. Here's a scorecard of what's changing

All indications are that "Windows Live" won't be part of the Windows 8 lexicon. Microsoft seems to be re-(re-re-re)-branding the ragtag collection of applications formerly known as Windows Live-something, gussying up some of them, assigning them shorter monikers, and casting them center stage for the Metro part of Windows 8.

For those of you who depend on one or more of the current Windows Live lineup, you may find yourself stuck with orphaned apps -- which, given the status of the "legacy" Windows 7 desktop in Windows 8, shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

Windows Live started in 2005 as a re-re-branding of some MSN applications and gradually took on new cloud features. Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Calendar, Windows Live Contacts, and Windows Live ID have almost nothing in common, except they all run in the cloud.

"Windows Live" as a brand took on greater prominence when Microsoft decided to pull many applications out of Windows, with the Vista deadlines imminent, and thrust them into a post-Vista-ship-date collection of downloadable PC programs known as Windows Live Essentials. Such Windows apps as Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Photo Gallery also have almost nothing in common, except they run on Windows and they're available for free download to any Windows customer.

All of that's changing. Here's a scorecard, for what we've seen and what's been rumored to date:

  • Windows Live ID (formerly known as Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .Net Passport, and Microsoft Passport Network), which now operates from the Windows Live Account site (confused yet?), will be rebranded Microsoft Your Account and referred to informally as "your Microsoft Account." You can see it by signing on to the new Microsoft Your Account site. It's no longer Live in name, but your Microsoft Account name is taking on sweeping new capabilities, including everything from log-on verification on local machines to billing history in the Windows Store, Xbox purchases, and ownership verficiation for cloud storage. Just don't call it a Live ID.
  • Windows Live Hotmail (formerly Hotmail, Microsoft Hotmail, and MSN Hotmail) is now just Hotmail. If you log into Hotmail, you go to the Windows Live Home page, at mail.live.com, but the name Hotmail appears all by itself.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive has already turned into just plain SkyDrive. Parts of Ray Ozzie's Windows Live Mesh -- formerly Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare -- have been folded into SkyDrive, although Microsoft has squashed PC-to-PC sync; the only way to synchronize files is through the SkyDrive cloud. It appears as if Mesh has met its match. (You can download the new Live-less logos for Hotmail and SkyDrive from the official Windows Live Image Gallery, if you don't mind the non-sequitir.)
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