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Windows Store versus the world: How do Microsoft's offerings really stack up?

Brad Chacos | Feb. 28, 2013
Whenever talk turns to the comparatively low number of apps available in the Windows Store, commenters invariably take the article to task. "Quantity isn't as important as quality!" they type, frequently tossing in an ALL CAPS EXPLETIVE or three. "Who wants 100,000 fart apps anyway?"

But you will find enough solid mobile-style games to keep yourself happily occupied for weeks. Puzzlers and Myst-esque adventure titles are especially well represented. The upshot: Gaming apps are definitely a strong suit for the Windows Store in the platform's early days.

Video apps

Things start to get a wee bit hairier when we turn to the high-bandwidth world of video apps, though the Windows Store is far from barren on this front. Netflix, Hulu Plus, and the stock Video app have the basic bases covered, and the Windows Store additionally packs apps from Vimeo, Dailymotion, Flixster, TED Talks, and the sultry Spanish speakers at Univision. Individual studios such as ABC and Nick also offer Windows 8 apps, and people with extensive local video collections will be well served by Plex.

Amazon Instant Video and YouTube are glaring app omissions--but they're not fatal. This may be a bit of a cheat, but Windows 8's default browser, Internet Explorer 10, sports a minimalistic interface that's perfect for streaming video, and both of those services function beautifully in-browser.

Nevertheless, Android and Apple maintain a solid grip on the lead here. Each offers a plethora of tightly targeted video-related offerings, including apps from from Redbox, Crackle, IMDb, Fandango, Comcast, HBO Go, DirectTV, and dozens of other big-name entertainment providers. Windows 8 is also scarce on video creation apps in the vein of Socialcam and iMovie.

Unless you need one of those more esoteric apps, however, the dynamic duo of IE10 and the Windows Store makes Microsoft's new operating system a solid option for video buffs.

Music apps

The free streaming and deep song catalog of the stock Xbox Music app adds tremendous value to Windows 8, but the operating system goes off-key the moment you wander into the Windows Store. The only major music streaming apps you'll find in its Entertainment section are Slacker, TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and Shazam. PRadio delivers a viable third-party Pandora client, but that's it as far as stellar song streamers go--which is why, in our roundup of the best Music apps in the Windows Store, we recommended sticking to desktop apps for your listening pleasure.

Conversely, all of the top music services offer apps for Android and iOS: Rdio, Pandora, Spotify, MOG, Rhapsody, Last.fm. The list goes on--but not in the Windows Store.

Perhaps more heinously, the modern UI version of Internet Explorer 10 can't be a savior here as it can for videos. In our testing, streaming music websites stop functioning if you minimize or otherwise hide IE, and the Web interfaces of those sites shrink down to minuscule, unusable proportions when docked to the side of the Windows 8 screen. Some don't even work in the modern version of IE 10 at all. Bah! At least the desktop version of IE 10 works fine.

 

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