Microsoft to Introduce Cloud-Based IDs in Windows 8

Enables roaming, single sign-on; saves Windows settings with user account in Microsoft's cloud.

Need roaming and single sign-on support for Windows 8?  Microsoft says Windows Live will a key element to enable those features.

Windows 8, previewed at Microsoft's Build conference earlier this month, is likely a year or more away from final general release.  With the updated operating system, Microsoft seems to be edging forward the world of connected devices championed by former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie. Key to that vision will be the Windows Live service.

Windows Live IDs use these IDs as a master password for Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN sites, enabling access to several Microsoft Web sites. Consumers use Windows Live IDs to connect to Windows Live Essentials applications and Office Web Apps, and users with these IDs receive 25 GB of file storage space at Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service. Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" users will have access to Windows Live SkyDrive service for photo storage and sharing.

Windows 8 lets users sign on using a Windows Live ID, which saves Windows settings with the user account. Application and last-used-state settings will persist across other devices running Windows 8, according to Katie Frigon, a Microsoft group program manager on the "you-centered" experience team, in a blog post. Changes to those settings are synchronized via Microsoft's cloud. Users have control over what gets synced, such as personalization, themes, language preferences.

If a device is used for work, IT pros can control what is synced via Group Policy settings. They can choose whether to link a domain account to a Windows Live ID. If the domain is linked, IT administrators can control what data the user can access on the corporate network. Corporate credentials for a domain-joined PC will stay on the PC and are not uploaded to the cloud, Frigon explained.

User-profile data is protected using encryption on the client before it is sent to the cloud via SSL/TLS, Frigon noted. By default, Microsoft does not allow such data to roam over a wireless wide area network. 

Earlier this month at its Build conference, Microsoft described how developers can take advantage of Windows Live identity data, which can be used by applications. Windows Live identity data can be used by any application or Web site that supports the Windows Live login ID -- not just Microsoft's sites and apps, according to Dare Obasanjo, a Microsoft senior program manager. By using a Windows Live ID, users get a "zero click sign-in" experience across Web sites, Obasanjo explained in a Microsoft Build talk, "Power Your App With Live Services."

Another benefit of using a Windows Live ID with Windows 8 is its roaming support. Core ID settings get synced up to the Windows Live cloud, allowing users to use an app at work and pick up from where they left off at home. Obasanjo gave an example of an RSS newsreader application. Users can read articles at work and then pick up at home from where they left off via this syncing capability.

On the consumer side, the synchronization enable by Windows Live IDs will connect the various applications in the Windows Live Essentials suite, which is available as a free download for Windows users. For instance, the Windows Live Essentials Mail app can connect and synchronize multiple e-mail accounts.  The Calendar app can integrate multiple calendars such as those used at home and work, according to Chris Jones, vice president of Windows Live engineering, in a blog post.

Developers can get more information about how to connect Windows Live users to their apps via "Live Connect," a portal for Windows applications developers.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.