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Microsoft has already hinted that it wants to make Windows more like Xbox by supporting the Kinect sensor technology and adopting elements of the Xbox Live interface for Windows-based games. Now it looks like the Windows team has its eyes on Office, Windows Phone, and Windows Live, as well.

That’s one conclusion to draw from a series of leaks over the past few days about Windows 8, or whatever Microsoft ends up calling the next generation of its PC operating system. Preliminary builds of Windows 8 show Windows Explorer (the interface for locating files on a computer) with a tabbed command strip — similar to the Office “ribbon” — replacing the traditional menus and tool bar.

[Follow-up: How Windows Phone apps could run on Windows 8]

Windows authors/bloggers Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera, who dug that up in early research for the future book “Windows 8 Secrets,” also report that the new Windows welcome screen is being designed to look more like the Windows Phone lock screen. That follows reports that Windows 8 would come with an alternative interface for touch-based tablet computers that uses tiles and works more like a mobile operating system.

Those types of option will be critical for Microsoft and Windows PC makers to compete against the iPad and Android tablets.

Digging into the ribbon interface uncovered by Thurrott and Rivera, blogger Long Zheng also notices buttons for “sync” and “web sharing” — suggesting that Microsoft might be building functionality similar to Windows Live Mesh and/or SkyDrive functionality into the operating system. As noted by, earlier leaks showed Windows Live ID incorporated into the operating system, so it’s easy to imagine all of this coming together.

But the company will need to be careful with that integration if it wants to avoid another round of antitrust scrutiny.

It’s important to remember that these leaks are based on very preliminary builds of the operating system. Microsoft isn’t talking about Windows 8 features yet, and a lot could change before the expected release sometime next year.

But taking into account all of these reports, the clear message is that the company wants to make its biggest products feel more like members of the same family by incorporating signature characteristics from each into its flagship operating system.

Todd Bishop of GeekWire can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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