After years of developing and evolving what became known as Windows Live, Microsoft turned a corner with the release of Windows 8, dropping the Windows Live and Zune brands in Windows 8 and moving to a set of unbranded and, frankly, unfinished “core apps”. Zune became Xbox Music and Xbox Video, both largely unfinished services facing growing competition from all over the map. Everyone from Google and Nokia to Pandora and Spotify are attempting to move into a market dominated by Apple and iTunes, and there hasn’t been much indication so far that Xbox Music will be any more successful than previous Microsoft attempts like MSN Music have been.
The Windows Live apps, too, once Microsoft pulled Messenger as a cornerstone of the suite in favor of concentrating on Skype, have had a rough go. Apps like Mail and Calendar were released as little more than “Hello World” concepts, without even so much as a brand to hold them together. As Windows Live was dropped, Microsoft can’t seem to quite figure out whether to promote the Outlook.com brand, move the apps into a branch of Office 365, or carve out some third niche that’s neither Office or Outlook.com and is apparently expected to survive with no brand at all.
Now, however, according to an All About Microsoft post, we’re about to get a set of updates to these core apps. Mary Jo Foley is hearing that there may be updates as early as this month:
I’m hearing from my contacts that this is not the case. In fact, updates to the Windows Mail, Calendar, Music, and Games apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT may be available to users as soon as March (as in this month).
I’ve heard that Microsoft employees are currently dogfooding the updated first-party apps. The updated versions all will be pushed out via the Windows Store.
We’ll reserve judgment on Microsoft’s strategy (if there even is one) until we see the new apps, and a strong set of features, even without a brand, may help to pull things together. Lets hope that we see the beginnings of a strategy that makes sense along with feature updates as Microsoft limps into a post Windows Live world.