The rumor mill predicted it some time ago, and now, Microsoft has made it official: Windows 8 will herald the death of the Windows Live brand. Microsoft's Chris Jones wrote about the branding change on the Building Windows 8 blog earlier this week. His post is fairly long, but these two paragraphs perhaps sum up it up best:
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.
Jones also posted this video, which shows how cloud services will be integrated into Windows 8:
In a nutshell, it looks like you'll simply log in with your "Microsoft Account" credentials and enjoy seamless cloud synchronization across different Windows apps and services. That sounds quite a bit like what Apple is doing with iCloud, and I think it's a step in the right direction. Cloud services should work seamlessly; otherwise, they risk being misunderstood, misused, or even unused by non-savvy users.