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Microsoft to drop Windows Live branding with Windows 8

Microsoft is attempting to bring a semblance of order to its currently confusing Windows application and services story.

Microsoft's perpetually confusing Windows Live branding is about to get a long-overdue clean up.

Microsoft is doing away with the Windows Live brand, according to a May 2 post on the Building Windows 8 blog. The Windows Live Essentials name for the collection of Windows add-ons -- including Messenger, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Writer, Live Mesh and Family Safety -- is going away. Other Windows Live services which weren't part of Live Essentials -- like Hotmail and SkyDrive -- also are getting simpler names.

Here's Microsoft's handy chart explaining the new names:

Microsoft is rebranding its Windows Live family of software and services. Microsoft

A bunch of the Windows Live services are going to be called "apps" with Windows 8. Microsoft made previews of a number of these apps available as part of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which it released in February.

All of this prompts the question: What happens to current Windows users -- those on Vista and Windows 7 -- who are currently using the non-app/non-Windows 8 versions of these services? It seems they will continue to be supported but it's unclear how, when, and if they'll get new features and functionality. Microsoft officials declined to comment on what the plan is here. A spokesperson also declined to comment on whether today's post signifies plans to phase out the current generation of Windows Live services and when, how, and if this may happen.

Microsoft has been struggling with its branding for its consumer services designed to complement Windows for a number of years. Now if it could just fix the MSN side of the house...