Microsoft to merge Windows Live and Office Live

Microsoft appears to be closer to rebranding its search engine and Live online services under the name Kumo.

Microsoft seems closer to rebranding its search engine and Live online services under the Kumo name, something that's been rumored to be in the works since last year.

The company confirmed Friday that it will merge its Office Live and Windows Live services into one unified online portal, but did not give a specific time frame for the move and declined to provide any other information.

"Microsoft has made the decision to converge Windows Live and Office Live, that includes Office Live Workspace and Office Live Small Business, into an integrated set of services delivered through one single destination," Microsoft said in a blog post on the Workspace Team Blog attributed to Kirk Gregerson, product manager for Office Live Workspace.

Microsoft's confirmation comes after a blogger unveiled Thursday that Microsoft planned to integrate the services into one set of offerings when the next wave of those services is released.

Currently, there are two separate portals through which users can reach Windows Live and Office Live. Office Live services are related to Microsoft's Office software, while Windows Live are applications and services that more closely align with functionality in the Windows OS.

Based on actions Microsoft has taken, it has been rumored since last year that it plans to rename its search engine and possibly its entire line of online services under the name Kumo, so the integration could be preparation for that move. Microsoft has declined to comment on any name change for its search engine or services.

However, on Dec. 4, 2008, Microsoft filed a trademark application for the Kumo name. The application is to trademark a host of software and services that include not only a search engine, but also advertising and telecommunications services, education, training, entertainment and the design and development of computer hardware and services.

Prior to that, according to Whois.Net, Microsoft registered the kumo.com domain, and through CSC, a company that manages domain names for corporations, also registered related domains that indicate the Kumo name could be used for other services. Those domains include: www.kumosearch.com, www.kumopics.com, www.kumowiki.com, www.kumogroups.com and www.kumotravel.com.

Kumo is a Japanese word that can be used to mean "cloud," "ceiling" or "sea spider" among other things, according to an online Japanese-to-English translation service.

Both Windows Live and Office Live, while somewhat recognizable by Microsoft customers and Web users, are fairly new brand names for the company. Microsoft revealed them in November 2005 in conjunction with a revamp of its online services. Still, the company's Online Services Business -- home to Windows Live, Office Live and the company's online advertising business -- is its least financially successful one, and Microsoft has struggled with developing an audience and solid base of users on the Web.

In an e-mail from its public relations team, Microsoft said the upcoming change does not affect current product cycles for its Office Live and Windows Live services, and the company will have more to share about specifics of the change "at a later date."

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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