Saturday, June 25, 2016

Microsoft finally unified their login screen

Towards the end of 2012, Microsoft revealed that MSN will be merged into Skype. And like a lot of people, I had an MSN messenger account, it was all the craze back then and it was very much the Facebook of that time. As nostalgic as it sounds, it has been three years since MSN messenger was retired but only up to recently has Microsoft solved one of the biggest gripes that I have had with the merging of MSN into Skype.

One of the issues I had with the merge is that it screwed up my Skype (and Hotmail) contact list as there were duplicates everywhere and people who didn't yet moved to Skype had a greyed out icon. I have yet to find the time to sort out my contacts but today I will be talking about something that Microsoft has fixed. It has been a long way but Microsoft has finally fixed their login screen. Well, you might be asking. Is Microsoft's login screen even broken?

To a certain extent yes, but my definition of broken here isn't implying that the login screen is not working. I am referring to the functionality of it. Prior to this, Microsoft's login screen came in all forms which made the experience inconsistent. Given that Microsoft services now span a wide range of devices, this new login screen is as key part of the experience. 

When I first merged my MSN account into Skype, I had a hard time understanding the login protocol of the new Skype mainly because both my Skype account and MSN account was under the same email address and I used two different passwords for them. Also, the fact that there is the option to use the Microsoft account or Skype account or even Facebook account to login made it a little bit more confusing. 

The new unified login screen has been rolled out to all Microsoft services (for some time now) comes at the right time as they are working toward unifying everything from their operating systems to web applications into a single unit. Also, the fact that Microsoft is continuing to buy companies and app developers mean that it will be easier to implement the 'Microsoft account' login screen. So, expect to see the option to login to your LinkedIn account with a Microsoft account soon.

Microsoft's unified login screen looks pretty slick but they aren't the first to do it. Google rolled out their unified login screen a couple of years back and I can see where Microsoft got their inspiration from with their new login screen.
Microsoft services now exist on a wide range of platforms and the login screen throughout has this new design. In case you don't have a Microsoft account, the new unified login screen looks something like this (image below) and as you can see, it does look a little similar to Google's unified login screen (pictured above).
this is how it looks like on Windows 10
As far as I know, all the Microsoft services (that I use) have implemented this new login screen and whenever you see the option to login with your Microsoft account on mobile apps, desktop apps, and even on Windows 10, you will be seeing the screen above or a variation of that.

So, whether you are signing into Outlook, Skype or Wunderlist with your Microsoft account, the new login screen will assure that you are in the right place.

Microsoft's execution of a unified login screen took 3 years and the final product does work and look good. However, I do believe there is some room for improvement as this login screen only works with Microsoft accounts (.live.com, .outlook.com, etc) and doesn't work with organizational Office 365 accounts. For that I will still need to login through the Office 365 login screen. Compared to Google's unified login which supports Google Apps (Office 365 equivalent) accounts also makes Microsoft's offering fall short of Google's unified login screen.
Additionally, if you are facing an error that sounds like "Something went wrong and we can't sign you in right now. Please try again later" when trying to access a Microsoft service on the web browser, you should clear your browser cache and cookies to resolve the issue. I was facing this primarily when I was clicking a link to a Windows Store app.

Initially, I though it was because Microsoft's login screen was a little buggy but when I tried it out on another browser and the link worked without any error. Only then that I realized that there was a problem. Eventually, I stumbled upon an answer in the Microsoft community forum which prompted me to clear the cache and browsing history and I have not seen the error ever since.

But other than that, this implementation is what I have been waiting for.

Oh yeah, here's how two step verification looks like on the new unified login screen.

Insider Talk

This article has been a long time coming. Wanted to write this since March and finally found time to do it yesterday. I'm not actually sure when Microsoft actually rolled out the new login screen. But I do remember that one of the later Windows 10 Insider builds (prior to the launch last Summer) started using it.

dw.