Windows 10 will strike a balance between Microsoft Accounts and local accounts this summer

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When preparing Insiders for the upcoming changes to Windows 10 after July 29, Gabe Aul expressly highlighted how Windows 10 would handle accounts differently. On the Windows Dev blog, Gabe explained how Windows 10 would loosen the restrictions on the use of Microsoft Accounts (MSA). To Gabe’s credit, his explanation was concise and informative, for Windows Insiders. When we reported it last week, we did so as a single part in a multi-part breaking news piece. In doing so, we were a bit brief on the particular area of account settings.

For any casual Windows users still wondering how the new changes will affect them specifically, with the helpful insight of Windows journalist Paul Thurrott, we would like to help clarify. Thurrott published a piece today on his blog, tackling the shifty concept of loosened account settings in Windows 10. While the changes are set to take place in Windows 10, much of the differences are embedded in how Windows 8 and 8.1 handled accounts. Perhaps as a direct parallel to the induction of Windows 8, Microsoft wanted to circumvent lost time in mobile by leapfrogging its user base. Windows 8 wanted to champion a first touch interface when many legacy Windows users were not ready for such a shift in traditional computing. Windows 8 also wanted to usher in the ubiquity of touch devices when its legacy users were just wrapping their heads around touch devices being used for a specifically limited task. Alas, Windows 8 wanted to herd its users into an iTunes-like account mentality when many of its legacy users didn’t have a Microsoft Account.

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To further complicate the matter, Microsoft was taking a begrudgingly unconventional stance for optional logins. Windows 8 users were given the tiny un-higlighted option to sign-in with a local account but would lose out on all the new features Windows 8 was proposing. Anecdotally speaking, any Windows 8 users without an MSA, (to which there probably many more than who have one) the experience became a contentious Canyon-like divide mainly from the start. Users would either have to go through the hassle of signing up for a “dummy” Microsoft account or sign in locally and forego the features that made Windows 8 worth having. Thankfully, the Windows team is easing back from that line drawn in the sand this time around with Windows 10.

“But overall, Windows 10 has struck what I see as a nice balance between an MSA requirement—which does have certain advantages, still—and users’ expectations, something that is clearly a theme of this release. As a result, you can effectively use far more Windows 10 apps and experiences without first signing in with, or connecting to, a Microsoft account.” – Thurrott

Thurrott uses two very poignant examples of how Windows 8 and a misguided Microsoft mentality convoluted an apparently direct experience. The initial login experience in Windows 8 prepared users for a lengthy account setup process. In Windows 10, users are encouraged to still use an MSA but are now just as free to ‘skip this step’. Another example Thurrott uses, comes from the mail app experience. In Windows, 8 users were greeted with a catch-all email account set up. While Windows 8 users could sign into apps separately, they were ‘not recommended’ to do so. Window 10 users, however, can directly sign in to their preferred email service and are free to add other email accounts later.

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The see-saw battle of future proofing Windows while also escorting legacy users along is evident in much of the Windows 10 development. This new approach to sign in, opting in, or linking accounts is yet another indicator that Microsoft would like to wrangle a bit more control over the users experience. However, the company is once again, self-aware, that when users migrate of their accord they are more likely to be more understanding and content with products, services, and software in the future.