Despite the looming October 26 launch date of Windows 8, a handful of questions about Microsoft’s next operating system remain. Some are big, some are small, but all should be relevant to hard-core PC users who have decided to take the Windows 8 plunge, as well as to people who plan to buy new Windows 8 hardware.
Here we’ll do our best to explain nine mysteries, as well as to provide context on why you should care.
How will users sync their media with phones, including Windows Phone devices?
Until now, Windows Phone users have relied on a Zune desktop app to sync their media files from a PC to the phone. With Windows 8, the Zune brand will disappear, and we haven’t yet received official word on what will replace it.
The Verge has posted a leaked screenshot of a Windows Phone companion app, but that provides only a glimpse at how syncing might work. In addition, it doesn’t answer the question of whether a desktop sync application will remain available.
On a related note, we don’t know whether Apple will release a version of iTunes for the Windows Store. It seems unlikely, but that would be the only way for Windows RT users to sync their content to an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Will Apple ignore these users because they dared to choose an RT tablet over an iPad? Only time will tell.
What are the details on Xbox Music?
Although Microsoft announced Xbox Music in June, details remain murky. The service is expected to be a competitor to Pandora and Spotify, with free radio-style streaming and subscription-based music on demand, but the official word is to wait and see about specifics on pricing and packaging.
The biggest remaining question about the service is whether it will be an answer to Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud, which acts as an online repository for all the music you already own. Whether Xbox Music will have a similar music-locker element is unclear. We expect answers soon, but as of press time Xbox Music remains quite mysterious.
What are the specifics on SmartGlass?
SmartGlass is a companion app for Windows 8 tablets—and eventually other mobile devices—that lets users control and send content to the Xbox 360. It can also show additional content on the small screen while a video is playing on the television.
That sounds great, except we don’t know exactly how content selection will work for third-party apps, such as Netflix. We’re also uncertain about how many apps will offer second-screen content for SmartGlass. To date, Microsoft has demonstrated HBO GO and shown concepts of what Halo 4 on Smartglass might look like, but the company has released little hard information.
Will other Microsoft apps, such as Paint and Movie Maker, go modern?
Microsoft will preload Windows 8 with several of its own tablet-optimized apps, such as Bing, Sports, Finance, and Weather. Even Solitaire received a makeover for the new touch interface in Windows 8.
Still, some apps, including Paint and Movie Maker, haven’t crossed over from the desktop. This is somewhat surprising, considering that Apple’s content-creation apps, such as iPhoto and iMovie, have become big selling points for the iPad.
Will Microsoft port its own apps, or will it rely on third parties to fill in the gaps? That’s a critical question, considering that the Windows Store, Microsoft’s app portal, is woefully understocked. If Microsoft really wants consumers to take its app ecosystem seriously, it should ensure that all of its key, legacy desktop software products come in modern-style touch versions too.