The online identity that was formerly known as Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, and Windows Live ID is now called the Microsoft Account. Of course, the salient question for the typical reader is, "What is a Microsoft Account, and why do I care?"
The Microsoft Account is a single sign-on Web service that ideally positions your account data centrally in the cloud and makes that information available to a wide variety of Microsoft online services.
You can use your free Microsoft Account to access and synchronize data across the following Microsoft technologies:
- Windows 8 Consumer Preview
- Windows Phone 7
- Windows Messenger
- Xbox 360
- Microsoft SkyDrive
- Office Web Apps
In case you were wondering, the Microsoft Account is directly analogous to the Apple ID that we use to synchronize data across our Apple devices.
Creating a Microsoft Account
You can create a Microsoft Account from within Windows 8 Consumer Preview, Windows Phone 7, or the Xbox 360. However, I recommend that you visit the Microsoft Account home page and create an account by using a full-fidelity Web browser. My justification for this suggestion is that doing so makes it easier for you to set up your account profile (more on this in a moment).
Specifically, a Microsoft Account consists of nothing more than (a) an e-mail address and (b) a password. Microsoft makes its free Hotmail service available to you, but you can associate any Internet e-mail account with your Microsoft Account. Additionally, you can always change your linked e-mail address and/or password at any time in the future.
To create your Microsoft Account, click Sign up on the Microsoft Account home page (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Signing up for a new Microsoft Account
You are asked to specify either an existing Internet e-mail address or create a new MSN Hotmail e-mail address. You are then required to choose a password, type a verification code, review and sign the end-user license agreements, and confirm your e-mail account.
Once those preliminaries are finished, you can log in to your Microsoft Account in any Microsoft Liveenabled service. Its standard Web logon interface is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Signing in with your new Microsoft Account