: Microsoft has made great strides towards simplifying its products and services. It has discarded overlapping products (Live Mesh discarded in favor of Skydrive, discarded Messenger in favor of Skype), has optimized its product names (changing the brand of Windows Live services, for example) and introduced the consistent interface used in computers with Windows. , servers, tablets and phones.

Nothing is simple with Microsoft. There are still areas in which you can be hopelessly confused. Here is something you should understand if you want to take advantage of some of the best new Microsoft services.

Microsoft has two different databases that have credentials for you: your email address and a password. They are separated. They are used for different things. It is possible that one day Microsoft will find a way to combine them, but now it’s up to you to keep them online. And in typical Microsoft fashion, they are not used consistently.

Everyone can and should have a Microsoft account. It is an email address and a password; it could be your primary email address, or it could be a Hotmail or address. (You can use the email address of Hotmail or, if you wish, but you do not have to, you may only use it to log in to other services). The Microsoft account can be used to log on to Windows 8 computer and gives you access to file storage online with Skydrive, as well as a number of other services.

Separately – separately! – subscribers to Office 365 business plans have an Office 365 account. It is an email address and a password; it could be your primary email address, or it could be (yourname) @ (company) The Office 365 account is used to log in to your mailbox (either in Outlook or in webmail) and other Office 365 services. It can also be the account associated with your commercial subscription to Microsoft Office.

See how it works

My Microsoft account is, with a complex password. That is the one that I write to log in to my computer with Windows 8.

My Office 365 account is, with a different complex password. That’s the one I write to log in to my mailbox.

For reasons that will be obvious, Microsoft sometimes distinguishes between a Microsoft account and an organization account, such as in this window that appears when Office 2013 is first installed:

The key is to remember that the two accounts are separate. They can be the same email address; you can set the password to be the same, if you wish; but they are separate accounts and Microsoft servers search different databases to authenticate you for several services.

There is a truly unfortunate crossover: as a consumer, buy a subscription to Office 365 Home Premium with a Microsoft account. For $ 99, you can install Microsoft Office on up to five devices, a great advantage with a single side effect: the term “Office 365” is hopelessly confused for you, because virtually nothing else about Office 365 is applied to those consumer accounts.

How can I link my Microsoft Office 365 account with my Skype account?

“1. Log in to Office 365 with your Microsoft account.”

Yes, I think it is technically accurate for some consumers, but it is doomed to fail for all entrepreneurs who log in to Office 365 with their Office 365 accounts and can not link accounts to Skype. It is confusing and frustrating.

If you have both a Microsoft account and an Office 365 account, they will sometimes cause conflicts because Microsoft does not handle them well behind the scenes. Open your Office 365 business webmail and then try to check your personal webmail. An error message will appear:

It’s not nice. People are forced to use InPrivate mode to verify one or the other, so the accounts do not fight each other.

You can see IT professionals complaining about the confusing configuration here, among other places.

Very little is simple in 2013. Microsoft is moving faster than I would have predicted to clean things up from an even more complex mess a few years ago, so this is not horrible, just something you should know. And do not make the mistake of thinking that it is better in the ecosystems of Apple or Google: they have their own problems.