I have no problem with the concept of a Microsoft Account, my problem is with the way the company has chosen to implement it. In fact my views of Microsoft is positive enough for me to want such an account. So where did they fail, and get me both irritated and frustrated?
My living room has several TV gaming systems, pretty much every gaming system actually. This including the Xbox 360, and since this week the Xbox One as well. My biggest argument for not getting the latter has been the issue of my Microsoft account(s). Not the steep price, but a mandatory feature of the console.
The unified presence
Such a beautiful concept. Imagine logging in once and your identity is established and maintained over all the digital real estate you happen to stumble into today. Imagine you being the tech company that controls this entrance into the world, any executive would salivate over the thought! Getting it right is paramount, after a lot of others getting it wrong.
It is impossible for me to think of my Microsoft Account without the idea of my Apple ID popping into my mind. I am pretty sure that it is it's origin. Apple ID allows me to sync all my Apple products, and all my digital purchases. In the common Apple way you are told to create one, no nonsense and it is mandatory. Here lies my problem with Microsoft's solution.
Where do you want to stumble today?
Playing catch-up with the App Store's popularity, some boss somewhere in Microsoft decided they needed a(nother) store on the digital main street. Purchases made here would have to sync between all products running Microsoft software, paving the way for Windows desktops being synchronized across products.
At least this is how I imagine things went down. Their blunder is that they decided to create uniform identities for their users in secret. At least not known to users not traversing obscure forums or working for the company. The creation of this identity was so paramount that user choice could not play into it.
My first experience with Microsoft Account was unboxing my Nokia Lumia 930, a month before Christmas 2012. I was exited and when asked to enter a MS Account I pressed the option skip, I wanted to play with my phone not learn about this new thing. So Microsoft created an account anyhow, unbeknownst to me.
Later (probably later that evening) I synchronized the phone with my life. Happily not knowing my life was syncing with a Microsoft Account, I hooked the phone up to my contacts, my email, Facebook and other crap. The hidden outlook.com address they provided as a user name was substituted when I entered my gmail.com address.
To this day I have a MS Account associated with my gmail, which contains apps I spent money on and will never see again. If the MS Account was to be so important, the presence of a skip option during first time start up really irritates me. Even a dialogue when starting the Microsoft <insert Windows/ Phone/ Windows Phone/ Whatever here> Store prompting the creation of an ID would have saved me in the future.
Enter Windows 8
Synchronizing desktops is not a novel idea, but Microsoft doing it themselves suddenly happened for me with Windows 8. Again they wanted a Microsoft Account, and this time explained what it did. So I decided to create an ID to serve me in the Microsoft universe. My chosen theme is the same on both my desktop and laptop, and OneDrive works well.
When I wanted to try Mine Sweeper, Windows said nefariously "Hey, you don't have a Xbox Live ID. So we created one for you and bound it tightly to your account. You will forever more be known as SillyMoniker74.". Not only did it make me feel old, I already had an Xbox Live ID with hundreds of hours of playtime and achievements. No way I was going to throw that away...
Solving stupidity with more stupidity
Finally the blog post arrives at the reason for me writing this in the first place. In order for me to break the bond between the dummy Xbox ID I never asked for and my chosen Microsoft Account, I had to create a dummy Microsoft Account. Be careful never to log in to it and click on a game mind you. Then wait for no less than 30 days before using a Xbox 360 (not possible on a Xbox One), to transfer the dummy Xbox ID to the dummy Microsoft Account.
Without informing me, naturally, my old Xbox Live ID had gotten a dummy Microsoft Account associated with it, which contained an old email as an identifier. Not even an email address actually, but an alias to soak up spam. This allowed me to finally transfer my Xbox Live ID I've been using, to the Microsoft Account I set up when I first learned about the concept of it.
Today I can play Forza Horizon 2 on my Xbox One with the same identity as I'm using on my desktop. I get credited achievements from both Mine Sweeper and Assassins Creed since my identity across Microsoft is the same, but frankly they should have just asked me to set it up when they got the idea. Sneaking it into my life like this has made me annoyed, and it will be another two years before I associate any payment service with them. Sadly that is the only response a consumer can have.
Note: I would have chosen the PlayStation 4, did not my friends play on Xbox One.