Windows 8, Microsoft Account & Skype – A Tsunami of support in the making!

Posted on October 31, 2012

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With the launch of Windows 8 Microsoft has laid out its house for increased adoption of what is now known as the ‘Microsoft Account’, formerly known as Live ID/Hotmail ID/ Passport amongst others.

Like many I have always been fastidious about keeping my Business and Private online existence separate. As such dual Microsoft Accounts have been the name of the game for as long as I can remember. This has a practical side apart from the Privacy dimension, in this modern age most individuals will move between employee’s at least once if not multiple times, therefore committing to a single corporate profile would be building in headache at transitions. Furthermore I know many organisations recommend the practice, for compliance amongst other reasons, that insist employee’s create separate corporate related identities to which corporate online assets or benefits may then be associated. This allows the organisation to maintain ultimate control over its assets and to provide a clear demarcation line for employee’s when they engage in social media amongst other online activities.

As for managing multiple Microsoft Accounts (Live ID/Passport etc) as far as I can see the whole Microsoft Account situation has been a challenge for Microsoft. Merging all the disparate backend resources is no mean task, Hotmail, Passport, Partner ID’s, Windows Azure and that is before you get to their new family of online services Office 365, CRM Online and latterly Skype.

The Microsoft Account ‘attach’ feature which is available in the account management section of your Microsoft Account user profile used to allow you to attach two or more Live ID and simplify login’s etc. Unfortunately it appears to not be working and has been broken for weeks (There’s a temporary problem with the service. Please try again. If you continue to get this message, try again later). This is regrettable at such a critical time with the launch of Windows 8 which is encouraging users to adopt a Microsoft Account as their principle login. Users cannot enjoy the convenience of this ‘attach’ feature’.

Users are now having to confront a change in behaviour from traditionally using multiple accounts and flexibility across services to selecting a single one as services are now becoming inflexible and demanding connection to a single account. Logically I feel users are better off consolidating on a Private Microsoft Account versus a corporate version. The latter could of course change if they moved jobs and present the associated headaches. Not to mention the risk of snooping that could occur as many corporate systems are open to monitoring for compliance amongst other legitimate administrative reasons. But then having to work across two separate accounts makes the whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) somewhat awkward as you start confronting the risk of confusing private and business data when accounts get ‘Connected’ either through Active Directory or Microsoft Online services (including Skype).

The biggest concern with the Microsoft Account in general is the distinct absence of any end user management. Users lack the ability to control their own Account associations, to ‘Dis-connect’ or elect at a granular level how to assign data sharing rights.

This is illustrated in stark terms by the less than congenial way Skype has decided to encourage (force on Windows 8 RT) users to adopt a Microsoft Account as their Skype login. In my recent experience with this I feel there is the potential of a 3 way cock up building a Tsunami of support headache for Microsoft as Windows 8 RT, Skype and the Microsoft Account converge.

My experience follows the receipt of a nice shiny new Microsoft Surface running windows 8 RT. I tested this with both my corporate and private account to see how it worked as part of a natural Techie’s curiosity, before settling on running my Private Microsoft Account as this device is for personal use.

That is when things went from great (see my Windows 8 RT Blog – ‘The iPad Killer) to grotesque (read on) when I attempted to configure Skype on my Personal Microsoft Account having tested it on my Corporate one.

Grotesque in that someone has not thought this through, or at least not got their priorities in the right order, summed up by the following:

  • At the time of writing, Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT are detected on the Skype site and make it VERY hard for you to get the traditional Skype desktop app, by forcing users to the new Windows 8 App store. As such users are in ignorance going to be installing the Windows Modern UI App version. (You can get the original desktop version with some laborious workarounds ie: login to the Skype website from a Windows 7 machine!)
  • Users of Windows 8 are encouraged to use their Microsoft Account as their principle login so that they can get all the benefits of replication across devices etc. Also internal AD accounts can now be ‘Connected’ to a Microsoft Account to also extend this to corporate accounts.
  • The Windows Modern UI App version of Skype prompts users to ‘Connect’ their Microsoft Account if it detects a user is using their Microsoft Account on their Windows 8 device and to use this now as the principle form of login to Skype.

All very innocent until you realise:

  • The Skype Microsoft Account attach is one way and CANNOT currently be reversed. I spend an hour on support with Skype trying to address this issue. Then had to repeat the exercise three times over a week and awaiting resolution.
  • The setting that should allow you to ‘Manage settings for all the apps and accounts you’ve connected’ in your Microsoft Account Profile is absent of any Skype option. So clearly the ALL word in this statement has some Microsoft hidden meaning, ALL non-Microsoft it would seem.
  • IF you have inadvertently Connected the wrong Microsoft Account and you are a proud owner of a new Windows 8 RT device then you cannot use Skype:
    • Because it will not let you login using your original Skype account login OR Connect using another Microsoft Account. It wants the one you connected.
    • Because Windows 8 RT does not support traditional desktop Apps you cannot revert to the desktop version so again Skype have successfully alienated users.

Skype suggested fixes’ are absurd:

  1. Create a new Skype account and connect it to the other Microsoft Account! (What and lose all my contacts, credits, Skype in and Out number etc)
  2. Create a second user account with the Connected Microsoft Account on the Windows 8 RT device and use that when you want to use Skype. (Oh nice one and what happens when people want to call me?)

Absolutely ludicrous!

So currently I have a nice new Microsoft Surface and cannot use Skype on it. Someone at Skype/Microsoft should be reviewing critical path practices and asking WHY enable a connected account BEFORE building in a dis-connect. IT history is FULL of similar situations where end user practices insist on such roll-back or flexibility. As a result the support desk at Skype is going to get heated, and from my experience they are poorly trained to address this, so a second faux pas for not getting the help desk up to speed first. The individual I got did not understand the difference and constraints on Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 or he would not have suggested using the desktop application!

The saga is ongoing, and I am not alone it appears http://community.skype.com/t5/Windows-8/Windows-8-Disconnecting-a-Microsoft-Account-and-a-Skype-account/m-p/1149344#M31  & http://community.skype.com/t5/Windows-8/Windows-8-Disconnecting-a-Microsoft-Account-and-a-Skype-account/m-p/1167114#M783

MESSAGE TO SKYPE Release an interim patch version of the Windows 8 app that enables ‘Skype Account’ login as an option alongside the ‘Microsoft Account’ option whilst you sort out the sorry mess and enable end user ‘Microsoft Account’ connection management.

As and when this is resolved I will do an update.


UPDATE:

The Skype online support process referred to above DOES WORK. Advise is if you do not get a confirmation email soon after the online support session you should repeat the exercise. It took me 3 attempts so do persist. They will manually disconnect a Microsoft Account. But this is hit and miss in terms of the speed of response and far from convenient. Re associating a Microsoft Account will again commit you to a one way trip that will demand the manual support process should you wish to change it again.

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