Windows Live Is … Dead

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The New York Times’ Randall Stross is taking note of what seems to be the final, official end to one of Microsoft’s oddest exercises in branding, Windows Live:

An array of products, with no natural connections to one another, have received the Windows Live moniker. Windows Live Essentials, for example, was the name for a suite of software products that could be installed on a PC and included photo management, video editing and instant messaging. Windows Live Mesh provided file synchronization among one’s personal computers, including Macs. And the list went on: Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Search, Windows Live Toolbar, Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Writer and others.

It was folly.

Windows Live Essentials turned out to be less than essential after all. The company is effectively leaving behind the Windows Live brand name as it renames the products that currently feature that two-word phrase.

Back in 2009, when I rounded up the 10 Worst Microsoft Product Names of All Time, Windows Live Essentials was on this list:

In September 2008, Microsoft announced that it was stripping three of Windows Vista’s applets — Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Movie Maker — out of Windows 7. They would live on, but as free downloads known collectively (along with other apps such as Windows Live Writer) as Windows Live Essentials. But doesn’t the fact that Microsoft unbundled these tools from Windows prove that they’re not essential? Bonus annoyance: Microsoft’s decision to identify these downloadable freebies under the Windows Live rubric (which usually applies to Web services) makes it even harder to define just what Windows Live means.

In retrospect, it feels like Microsoft started readying Windows Live for retirement shortly after it introduced the concept. It long ago did away with the most bizarre examples, such as Windows Live Search (now Bing) and Windows Live Hotmail (now just Hotmail). The inessential Essentials were just stragglers.

I’m not sure if we’re entering a golden age of Microsoft branding — Windows RT still strikes me as a pretty oblique product name — but the company does seem to be trying to streamline things. Doing away with Windows Live is a necessary step.