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A deep dive into Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Preston Gralla | March 6, 2012
Windows 8 Consumer Preview offers a new look at Microsoft's upcoming interface for both computers and tablets. Is one device being shortchanged in favor of the other?

A disappointing cloud

Microsoft is betting part of its future on the cloud, so it's no surprise that one of the built-in Metro apps is for Microsoft's cloud-based storage service, SkyDrive. The SkyDrive app, as with other Metro apps, is simple to use, colorful and easy to navigate.

But rather than being integrated throughout Windows 8, SkyDrive is a standalone cloud-based storage service, so you can't automatically back up data to the cloud and make it available to multiple devices, or have data on SkyDrive automatically sync to Windows 8. Cloud-based syncing is relegated at this point to syncing your settings across devices, such as language preferences, background themes, your account picture and browser settings including bookmarks.

One of the built-in Metro apps is for Microsoft's cloud-based storage service, SkyDrive.Click to view larger image

The lack of cloud integration is a big disappointment, but Microsoft claims that this will change in the future. The company says that eventually SkyDrive will be available from any Metro and Desktop app, so that you'll be able to save a file to SkyDrive and open files from SkyDrive directly in Windows 8. SkyDrive will be combined with Microsoft's syncing software Mesh so that data will be automatically synced to and from the cloud. And you'll even be able to stream audio and video from a remote PC.

I found no evidence of any of that in the current iteration of Windows 8, so we'll have to wait for updates to see if Microsoft delivers on those promises.

The Windows store

I'm not a fan of closed stores on the general principal that freedom in computing is always a good idea. But as with the Apple Store for iOS, the only way you'll be able to get apps onto Metro is via the Windows Store. This contrasts with the approach Google takes with Android, in which you can download and install apps in many different ways, not just through Google's Android Market. (Over on the Desktop, though, you can install applications in the same way you did in previous versions of Windows.)

The Windows Store at launch is a lonely place; there are very few apps there. When I went there for this review, the Productivity section, for example, had a grand total of five apps, and that included two that were already pre-installed on Windows 8. Travel, meanwhile, had four apps, including one already pre-installed. Other categories were similarly bereft of choices. I would assume that over time the store will be more populated with apps, but it has a very long way to go before it's a winner.

When reviewed, the Productivity section of the Windows Store had a grand total of five apps, and that included two that were already pre-installed.Click to view larger image


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