Windows Live ID to Replace Passport

EXCLUSIVE Microsoft plans to roll its Passport authentication service into the Windows Live family of Web services by 2007, renaming it to Windows Live ID, BetaNews has learned. While the company is keeping mum on specifics, the service will make use of Microsoft's new InfoCard technology.

Sources familiar with the situation say Windows Live ID is part of up to three-dozen "Live" services currently in development. Some of these products would piggyback on top of preexisting services -- like Windows Live Local Search Free Call, which enables users to call businesses directly from search results.

Standalone offerings, meanwhile, would include products like the Windows Live Toolbar and the recently announced Windows Live Family Safety Settings.

While most of these services will not be released by April, when the core Windows Live family is said to be exiting beta, the revelation of a whole host of new Live products in the pipeline indicates Microsoft is placing a major bet on the Web services concept.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the existence of Windows Live ID to BetaNews late Monday, calling it the authentication service for Windows Live. "You may consider it a major upgrade to Passport technology," he said. According to Microsoft, Windows Live ID would play a large part in making upcoming services possible.

"We do plan for Windows Live ID to work with InfoCards in the future," he continued, although declined to say whether the feature would make it into the service's initial launch.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates provided the first clues to the existence of Windows Live ID at the RSA Conference earlier this month, when he said InfoCard was intended to replace Passport and would make password-based authentication obsolete.

With over 30 services potentially taking on the "Live" moniker, industry watchers are warning that the Redmond company risks diluting the brand like it did with the .NET concept.

"Within a matter of months [after .NET's initial release], Microsoft marketers began attaching the .Net moniker to all kinds of products, from Windows .Net Servers, to MapPoint.Net," said Mary Jo Foley, author of the Microsoft Watch newsletter. ".Net became a meaningless term that even Redmond's own couldn't explain concisely."

According to Foley, Microsoft risks the same result with Windows Live if it isn't careful. "It seems like Microsoft, its partners and its customers could benefit from some kind of clearly articulated policy as to what will and won't be considered a Live property."

The Microsoft spokesperson could not confirm public release dates or the number of Windows Live projects in development, but acknowledged, "you'll see many more new products in the coming months."

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