I have had my Microsoft Account since the late ’90s, when it was called Microsoft Passport. It has been called Microsoft Wallet, .net Passport and more recently it has been known as a Windows Live ID. It was originally designed to be single sign-in service to allow us to sign in to many different sites or services with just one log in.
Chances are if you have used Hotmail, Zune, a Windows Phone, logged into MSN or have an Xbox Live Gamer tag you already have a Microsoft Account. If don’t have a Microsoft Account you will want one to get the most out of Windows 8, Windows RT and if you ever go the route of the Windows Phone. When you install a fresh copy of Windows 8 or fire up the Surface, you will be asked for your Windows Account and if you don’t have one will allow you to create one.
Rewind a bit here. Long before Facebook, Google and what they call the “Cloud” today there was MySpace and few other sharing/social sites. To compete with MySpace offered Microsoft Live Spaces. Those of us with Microsoft Accounts where given our own little space on the web. We could blog, share files and photos, had a calendar and more. I’m thinking many of those services have evolved into what we have today with our Microsoft account.
With a Microsoft Account you get some things out in the cloud. These items in the cloud are shared across all Windows 8/RT/Phone that you log into with your Microsoft Account.
This doesn’t have to be a Live or Hotmail address. I have always had my Microsoft Account associated with my regular (outside of Microsoft) email address. When I log into my computers, surface and phone I log in with the address that I associated with my Microsoft Account. For mail on my Microsoft Account I POP from and delete the mail over at my email provider. Outlook.com (a.k.a. Hotmail) has become a superior web based mail interface. The recent changes have made it far more usable than a couple of the others. I also “Connect” my inbox to a Gmail account that I have so I can see all mail in the Mail app in Windows 8 or on the Surface.
This is your Contacts in the cloud. With a Microsoft Account you can “Connect” to other services. I have my Microsoft Account connected Outlook (formerly MSN contacts), Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and Google. The People hub on all my devices now shows all my contacts from all of those services. If duplicate names are found the contact information is linked to one Tile for that contact. If the same contact has their name differently across the different services you can link the accounts manually to clean up your people hub and have all information for a contact in one place.
This is your calendar(s) out in the cloud. You can have more than one calendar. In fact you will when you connect to other services like Facebook.
My first experience with this was when I finally went to a Windows 7.5 phone about a year ago. I got my Windows Phone, set it up with my Microsoft Account and immediately started getting Birthday reminders for Family, Friends and people I never knew their birthdays. Then I figured out that when I connected my Microsoft Account to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google it brought birthday information for all of my contacts that entered birthdays on those services. The birthday calendar is really just an overlay, so you can choose to turn that off (no reminders on phone or desktop). Calendars can be shared with other contacts. Shared calendars become overlays that you change colors on to differentiate between the different calendars.
My wife Shawn shares her calendar with me and I share mine with her. Now if we are sitting at a desktop, using our Surface or on the road with a Windows Phone we can see if the other has something important scheduled. I will enter appointments in my calendar and enter the address of the appointment in the body, now when I am on my Windows Phone if I tap the address on the appointment the map opens showing me how to get there.
This is your storage space in the cloud. Here you 7G of free storage. Early adopters J actually received and have quite a bit more space but 7G is a pretty good chunk to store documents, photos and music. SkyDrive folders can be shared with your contacts and others, kept private or you can make them a public share. On the Microsoft Surface with Office 2013 you can set Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote to save to your SkyDrive. With Windows Phones you can set it so Photos are saved to your SkyDrive Camera Roll.
A cool use right off is to create a OneNote shopping list on your SkyDrive and share it with your spouse or significant other. Now when out and about shopping you can pop open the shopping list on your Windows Phone, check off the things you have purchased. When the person you shared the shopping list is shopping on the other side of town, they will see that you have picked it up and avoid duplication. For me it’s the little thingsJ.
Connect to Accounts and Services
That is just scratching the surface of your Microsoft there are more ways that it all ties together. To get the most of the people hub you will want to “Connect” your Microsoft Account with the services you use. I had my Microsoft Account connected to all my services before ever building a new Windows 8 pc or using my Surface. It was really cool in that when I logged into each of those new systems my People Hub and my Calendar was already to go.
There two ways you can connect your Microsoft Account to the other services once you have created your MS account: As I mentioned if you do this online before logging in to a new Windows 8 computer or Surface…all your contacts will be brought in (all of your windows 8/RT toys will update)
Setting up your Account using either method should update your people hub on all Windows 8/RT/or Windows Phone that you log into using that account.
Set up online
- Browse to https://login.live.com/ log in to your Microsoft Account
- In the left pane choose Permissions
- Under Connect to accounts you use every day choose Add Accounts
- Choose the Accounts you use; you will be asked to log in to each with the credentials that you use for those services.
Set up while on a Windows 8/RT system
- Click/Tap on the People Hub tile.
- Open the Charms menu (Windows Key + C or Swipe right thumb inward)
- Click/Tap on Settings.
- On the Settings Menu choose Accounts
- Click/Tap Add an account.
- Choose the account you wish to add; you will be asked to log in to each with the credentials that you use for those services.
- Repeat for each account you use.
Once you connect to the other accounts/services you People Hub will populate with all kinds of nifty things J. You will have Messenger links, phone numbers, jobs and titles, Facebook and Twitter feeds for each service that your contact is part of.