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Living with Windows 8

by Eric Kraus

I’ve been running a version of Windows 8 now for approximately 2 years and I’ve been quietly collecting my thoughts while Microsoft put together its formal marketing strategy around the “post-PC era” and its new “touch-first” operating system.  I’m not interested in debating Windows 8 vs. iOS/Android.  From a feature comparison, they are competitive (period).  So the rest is opinion on ecosystem, specifics, individual need, etc.

Instead, I’d rather share my personal experience with Windows 8, how I use it and why I believe in Microsoft’s strategy.


When both the iPhone and iPad were released, I -like many others- bought in to what was then a non-existent world of apps, social networking and productivity in my pocket.  I loved it and told everyone I knew that I loved it.  However, from day one, on both devices, there were limitations in what I could do.

I was a HUGE music buff, but certainly didn’t have the budget to support buying every song I liked.  I also noticed that my iPhone (and later my iPad) turned into great notification & web browsing devices…For example, I would receive an email, that required a decent response, and I found myself digging out my laptop to respond.  A lot has changed since then though.  Subscription services like Spotify and Pandora are mature and Bluetooth keyboards are paired with about 1 out of 4 iPads I see.

What I love

Xbox Music
After leaving the Apple ecosystem, I found myself in Zune and have never looked back.  Not only was the Zune software significantly better for exploring music.  Also, with Zune, and now Xbox Music, I only pay $9.99/month and I can stream OR download all the music I want.  I build playlists for working out, writing code (yes I still do some), social gatherings, etc.  Not only does it work great on Windows 8, but it’s built in to my Windows phone and our Xbox too.

Messenger / Skype
The built-in messenger is pretty cool.  Skype is obviously great and well adopted across the world.  At first glance of the Messenger app, it appears like you would only be able to chat with fellow Windows 8 users, but if you link up your Facebook account to your Microsoft account, you have access to all of your Facebook friends too.  This feature is a home run on my Lumia 920 too.  It blends messages that come via Facebook, Messaging (same as Windows 8) and txt messages.  In both cases, it lets me carry on a single conversation thread with a person no matter what platform they are on.

Live Tiles
Live tiles may seem like a minor thing until you realize how much time you spend opening apps just to see IF there is anything in them you want to see (Weather, Mail, Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, News, etc. etc.)  I turned my live tiles off the other day just to test my use of them and I was blown away at how much I felt disconnected.  The live tiles really provide a lot of information that make your device personal and informative.

Xbox SmartGlass
SmartGlass is still relatively new, but the existing functionality paired with potential are amazing.  You can control your Xbox (music, TV, movies, etc) from your Windows 8 device.  I’m not a huge gamer, but we are already seeing SmartGlass “companion” video and games come out.

Share and Search
We’ve heard enough of the Charms in Windows 8, but I seriously lean on the Share and Search features of Windows 8 in almost every app.  My largest “consumer” usage covers Browser, Music, News and Recipe apps.  Search and Share have ways of tracking your frequent actions so they are easily available.  For instance, I share news articles with several colleagues (typically the same ones) and share recipes with my mom and wife.  With 3 taps, an email is sent off (without having to retype email addresses each time) and I continue on working in the app.

These are just a few ways Windows 8 has been successful to me.  With updates coming in “Windows Blue”, the integration between Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone will be even tighter.  (details to come)


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