A few months ago Skype introduced the ability to associate your Skype ID with a Microsoft ID and the option to log into Skype via your Microsoft ID. The most immediate advantage is the addition of your Windows Live Messenger contacts to those accessible from the Skype client.
While many Skype users have taken advantage of this feature, some have raised objections but then again it’s optional. On the other hand if you are into using Microsoft products you will want to get the bigger picture that I see evolving with the introduction of Windows 8, Office 2013 and associated “cloud” offerings, such as SkyDrive.
As a prelude I should mention that the only reason I previously had a Microsoft ID was to use Windows [Live] Messenger or its predecessors several years ago. I stopped using Messenger four or five years ago when I found that all my Messenger contacts (not many) were also Contacts on Skype. So I had basically let my Microsoft ID languish in favour of Skype for its richer feature set.
However, over the past few months I have been learning, by pragmatic experience, more about the evolving cloud-based Microsoft ecosystem. Skype account integration with a Microsoft ID is only one component of the entire story. A new Windows 8 desktop PC (acquired to address RAM and processor issues with my previous PC that cost me one to two hours a day), a few days evaluating a Microsoft Surface, signing up initially for Microsoft Exchange and later Office 365 have all contributed to building a better idea of Microsoft’s “big picture’”. Microsoft ID has become the gateway to many Microsoft offerings.
First here’s what I now log into with my Microsoft ID:
- Skype (on PC’s, iPhone, iPad and Android tablet)
- MS Exchange
- Windows 8
- Microsoft ID is required to log into Windows 8 in place of independent Windows User iD’s
- Logging into Windows 8 auto-logs me into Skype for Windows 8, Mail, People and other MS Windows 8 applications, including SkyDrive
- SkyDrive (also accessed from MacBook, iPhone, iPad and Android)
- Office 365 (Office 2013 on Windows and Office 2011 on Mac)
- Microsoft Surface (when I was evaluating it)
- (Outlook.com but with MS Exchange using the same ID I can no longer access Outlook.com)
- Windows Live Messenger (but that is being merged into Skype)
- Windows Live Writer
Now over to my BlackBerry 10. I have now had six days to experience this new mobile computing platform. I referenced some reviews in a previous post. At this time just a few quick comments:
- It’s fast. Access to messages, via the Hub, launching programs, web browsing especially, returning to open programs – they’ve taken away many of the little hesitations and pauses one gets with previous devices. Let me repeat – it’s fast.
- The Hub is the “always open” messaging feature where BlackBerry leverages QNX’s multi-tasking capability. While maybe Android supports multi-tasking programs in background, BlackBerry leverages its multi-tasking to provide a totally unique user experience.
- The keyboard: I’m not waiting for the Q10 with a physical keyboard. I can do 50 to 100 character sentences in 10 to 20 keystrokes (and I don’t have to go back to correct typing errors nearly as often).
- Gesturing: There is no “Home” button to launch activity. I had some experience with gesturing when using the BlackBerry Playbook. There’s a bit of a learning curve but once you get it you can move quickly to wherever you want to be. (And the learning curve is no where near as much as with using the new Windows 8 tile UI.)
- An amazing display; more on this topic and the BlackBerry 10 in a future post.
Bottom line: the BlackBerry Z10 is an entire new mobile user experience. As one who has always pushed multi-tasking to the limit (and sold the concept and associated user experience for a major portion of my career), BlackBerry got it right.
Over the weekend I was watching the Lync Conference keynote given by Tony Bates, President of Microsoft Skype Division and Derek Burney, Corporate Vice President, Lync. More about that in a later post. However, at one point mention was made of SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage offering. Out of curiosity I decided to see if I could access SkyDrive via the BlackBerry 10 browser. And I got some interesting results that give a much better picture of the extent to which your Microsoft ID is leveraged to reach into the cloud, especially in today’s BYOD environment.
In the BlackBerry 10 browser I went to www.skydrive.com (it redirects to skydrive.live.com). Asked me to login with my Microsoft ID. Then I ended up at a screen that gave some of the standard sidebar options for accessing files (as seen in, say, Office 2013) but I also noticed additional links to my two Windows PC’s on the sidebar (I still have that old Windows 7 PC online).
I clicked on the one for my new PC; there is a 2-step security procedure. It sent out a security code to my associated mobile phone (my BlackBerry in this case). Switched over to the BlackBerry 10 Hub; sure enough the message was there with my code. Switched back to my browser and entered the code. (BlackBerry 10′s true background processing feature makes this switching quite fast – no hesitations.)
On the left below is what I saw:
|PC C: Drive Screen
Favorites, Library, Computer
(as also seen in Windows 8 File Explorer)
|Select a file
Notice how one can use right/left swipe gestures across the bottom to move between file images
But is was only when I rotated to landscape that I found the full feature set available.
You can “slide” through the various files via the file slider at the bottom. Across the top are a variety of options for handling the file in focus, including the ability to download the file and to share it using email, social networking or links:
As an aside I also found I could access Windows Live Messenger via the small chat icon in the upper right but it’s not a user friendly way to access and use Messenger. I’ll stick to Skype 6.x for accessing my Messenger contacts (and that goes away soon with the Live Messenger integration into Skype).
Bottom line: While it would be great to have a SkyDrive app for BlackBerry 10, this browser-launched approach provides a path to any files on my PC that are not accessible via my DropBox account for which a BlackBerry 10 app exists. More importantly it points out how deeply Microsoft is integrating into cloud-based services for more universal access to their offerings. It serves as an example of why the Microsoft ID is becoming more important for those who use any of Microsoft’s applications or services.
From the BlackBerry perspective, I have found that I can access many “applications’, such as PGATour.com, through their [mobile] website and get results as quickly as (or even faster than accessing the application on my iPhone 5.
As for the Skype – Lync demo, yes, you also log into Lync via your Microsoft ID but, as an enterprise focused offering, the Skype-Lync integration is a topic for another post.
As for any issue with using the Microsoft ID with Skype, yes, I am well aware that you are limited to associating it with only one Skype account. On the other hand I always launch Windows 8 directly into Desktop mode via the Start8 utility where I use Skype for Windows Classic (Desktop) for all my Skype activities, including access to my “testing” Skype account.