CNET's Martin LaMonica wrote an article yesterday about how Microsoft's Live online services "don't end at Windows Live ID will be a central part of Microsoft's strategic shift towards Live Services and integrated desktop/Web apps the Web browser", but "extend deep into Windows". This is based on the recent release of software for embedding Windows Live ID authentication services within Windows applications. Windows Live ID is the next version of its web-based identity service, Passport - and it looks likely to be more useful than Passport ever was because of the Web-desktop integration that is now starting to appear. It's not an exaggeration to say that Microsoft's future lies in the desktop-Web balance, because Microsoft needs to tie its existing OS/desktop software platform into the Internet in a big way - to ward off Google and other Internet companies.
Windows Live ID is going to be a crucial link between the two worlds of desktop and Web. Indeed, Microsoft is at the forefront of the "Identity 2.0" movement. Its Microsoft Meta Identity Standard aims to make digital identity systems interoperable. Plus Microsoft has an upcoming open ID product called InfoCard, which will be available in Vista.
There's an SDK coming for Windows Live ID later in the year, but for now it works with Microsoft's web apps such as Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Messenger. Where the SDK will really come into play is the integration between Windows Live services and the existing Windows desktop apps. LaMonica wrote:
"With the developer's kit, called Windows Live ID Client SDK, Microsoft is seeking to create closer integration between its Web-based hosted services and "rich client" Windows applications, Ayres said.
For example, a developer could write a Windows application that has a button for buying from an e-commerce site. The Windows Live ID authentication window could pop up from within the Windows application to verify an end user's security credentials.
"This SDK makes it easier to write new client applications that understand Windows Live IDs and supports the sharing of authentication state across multiple rich clients and browsers," according to a Windows Live ID white paper published earlier this year."
LaMonica goes on to tie the SDK news in with a recent speech by Microsoft's golden boy Ray Ozzie, in which Ozzie said that Microsoft Live services are being designed to complement Microsoft's desktop Windows-based software - rather than replacing desktop software. This strategy will define Microsoft's future, because in many ways it's the bridge between the old world (desktop software and the Windows OS) and the new world in which Google is a pioneer (web apps). I was interested to read Microsoft blogger Don Dodge's view on this:
"In my opinion the whole move towards Live Services and the "seamless, blended Client-Server-Services" model is FAR more impactful than Vista. Vista is a big deal for sure, and long overdue, but for real immediate impact on millions of users...Live Services is where it is happening. There will be more Live announcements in the near future. Ray Ozzie is already having a huge impact on Microsoft. You will see more over time."
I'd just add that there will be a lot of integration between Vista and Live Services, so in that sense Vista will still be very impactful when it arrives. But Don has hit the nail on the head in regards to the importance of Windows Live. I'm not sure if Ray Ozzie is the complete reason why Microsoft has made this strategic move towards desktop-Web, as recent media coverage has made out. I'd love to interview Ray to find out a bit of the recent history on this, because surely it can't all be down to a single person? Either way though, I think Microsoft is right on the ball with this strategic shift towards Live Services and integrated desktop/Web applications - and Windows Live ID will be a central part of this change.