Windows Live was first announced on November 1st, 2005, and in our press release we described it as “a set of personal Internet services and software designed to 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.” Since that time, we’ve been hard at work building software and services that deliver that promise, a foundation that we could rely on as we designed new versions of Windows as well as other Microsoft products. We’ve received lots of feedback about features and ways we could improve the software and services. And we’ve also received some feedback about the naming and marketing we have done. Windows 8 is a chance for us to act on that feedback and reintroduce you to the broadest and most widely used collection of services on the Internet.
Today, Windows Live services are used by over 500 million people every month. There has been a lot of discussion recently on what constitutes an “active” user of a service; for the purposes of this post this term refers to people who use Hotmail, SkyDrive, or Messenger at least once a month, meaning they send email, use instant messaging, or upload files to SkyDrive.
These services run at massive scale – Hotmail is the world’s leading web email service, with 350 million active users and 105 petabytes of storage; Messenger is the world’s leading instant messaging service, with 300 million active users, and SkyDrive has over 130 million users with 17 million of these uploading files every month. Windows Live Essentials applications are among the most popular applications in their categories on Windows – including Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker, leading in photo management and video editing, and Windows Live Mail, second only to Microsoft Outlook in mail apps.
While these results are certainly noteworthy, they still did not meet our expectations of a truly connected experience. 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. This created some amount of customer confusion, which is noted in several reviews and editorials. 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.
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 experience, accessible in Windows desktop apps, Windows Metro style apps, standard web 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.
We also believe that you should have a choice and control over what services you use, what information you share (with others and Microsoft), and how you access your services. That’s why using any of these services is optional, and you’re welcome to mix and match them with the software and services you choose.
Microsoft account is our identity service for individuals who use Microsoft products and services. You can use your Microsoft account to sign in to your Windows 8 PC, and then use the same account to check your billing for services like Xbox LIVE, Zune, and the Windows 8 app store. And your Microsoft account is connected to your Xbox gamer tag so you can track high scores and games. You can 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. We’ll be rolling out the change in nomenclature from Windows Live ID to Microsoft account over the next several months across our product line. There are still some areas we continue to work on such as migrating your account (credit cards and purchase history) from one market (currency) to another if you’ve connected your account to services such as Xbox LIVE.