Microsoft will offer the ability to sign into Windows 8 with a Windows Live ID, a move that places the next-generation operating system in heightened competition with both Google Android and Apple's upcoming iCloud.
According to a Sept. 26 posting on the "Building Windows 8" blog, doing so will "ensure that each PC user has a truly personal experience that seamlessly bridges their online and offline tasks, is simpler to set up and use, and persists across their set of Windows 8 PCs."
A newly purchased Windows 8 PC will give users the option of creating an account linked to a Windows Live ID. From that point forward, signing into any Windows 8 PC with that Windows Live ID will activate the user's personalized settings on that machine. Those settings apparently include "lock screen picture, desktop background, user tile, browser favorites and history, spell check dictionaries, Explorer settings, mouse settings, and accessibility settings."
That Windows Live ID will also sync Windows 8's Metro-style apps, including their settings and most recent state. Users will have the ability to customize which settings sync between PCs. Websites that leverage the Windows Live ID, such as Hotmail, will not require a second sign-in after the initial log-in to Windows 8.
The ability to sync across multiple devices is a growing trend in the tech world, with different companies offering their own variation on the theme. Use your laptop to send an email via Gmail, for example, and your nearby Google Android tablet will update to reflect the new communication. Apple's iCloud, due to ship this fall, will sync contacts, calendar, email, photos and music between users' various devices.
Given Microsoft's much-touted "all in" cloud strategy, it's unsurprising that Windows 8-widely expected to release sometime in 2012-will offer tight integration with online services.
For the past few weeks, Microsoft has unveiled aspects of its Windows 8 operating system, which is being designed to run on both tablets and traditional PCs. It will do so by offering two distinct user environments: the desktop, instantly familiar to anyone who's used Windows, alongside a touch-enabled interface featuring colorful tiles that link to applications.
Microsoft executives have spent considerable time over the past few weeks trumpeting Windows 8's "no compromises" ability to provide both a lightweight mobility experience and the sort of features desired by power users. Expect that, over the next few months, they will begin to focus more and more on how Windows 8 uses the cloud.