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Here's what Windows 10 won't change: Window 8's plans to tie you to Microsoft services

Brad Chacos | July 21, 2015
Live Tiles and full-screen apps are gone, but Microsoft is still trying to keep you inside its ecosystem.

That last part is key. While Windows 8's apps worked on Windows 8 PCs and tablets alone, shoehorning the same interface across screens, Windows 10 revolves around "universal Windows apps." Universal Windows apps work across all versions of Windows 10, scaling their interfaces to fit the screen, from itty-bitty phones to wall-sized PCs and everything in between.

Universal Windows apps--software that is written once and works across all Windows hardware--are key to winning developers over to the Windows Store ecosystem. Universal Windows apps are the key to Continuum, a compelling new feature that lets you use your Windows 10 Mobile phone as a proper PC when it's connected to an external display. Universal Windows apps are a key to unlocking Microsoft's mobile potential, moving away from its reputation as "that PC company."

It's no wonder that the Windows Store is given prominent placement on the taskbar of both Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. Microsoft's future depends on it--and Windows 8 got the Windows Store off to a rocky start.

Microsoft as a service

But universal Windows apps aren't the only pony Microsoft has in the mobile race. Another underlying philosophy of Windows 8 was enticing users into Microsoft's warm embrace of services.

onedrive app
Windows 8's OneDrive app.

Native OneDrive integration. Dedicated Xbox Video and Music apps. Skype, Bing Maps, and Health & Fitness apps, all preinstalled by default. Search results that scour the Internet with Bing to mix web and Windows Store results in with locally stored files (complete with the occasional full-screen ad). The list of Windows 8's cloud service hooks goes on and on, all tied together neatly by an underlying Microsoft account.

That services integration goes even furthered in Windows 10, bolstered by new CEO Satya Nadella's command to get Microsoft services in front of as many people as possible, on as many devices on possible.

All--well, most--of Windows 8's default apps return in Windows 10, but they're joined by some newbies. The new Xbox app ties into Microsoft's console gaming ecosystem, allowing you to track your Xbox Live friends, achievements, and game clips, as well as stream games from your Xbox One to your PC. It's joined by new "Get Office" and "Get Skype" apps that, well, encourage you to do exactly what you'd expect.

Coaxing users onto Microsoft services makes absolute sense for Microsoft, giving it the capability to transform consumer Windows customers from one-time license/PC buyers into yearly cash cows--no doubt a huge concern as PC sales continue to plummet.

A Windows license costs roughly $100 for lifelong use. An Xbox Live Gold subscription, on the other hand, will set you back $60 a year. Use up the free 15GB of OneDrive cloud storage? (It's easy, with Windows and the OneDrive mobile app prompting you to back up everything to the cloud.) Monthly subscriptions cost $2/mo. for an extra 100GB or $4/mo. for 200GB. Or you could spend $70 to $100 a year for Office 365, which also comes with 1TB of additional OneDrive storage (synergy!) and 60 minutes of Skype calling. Did I mention Windows 10 has a "Get Skype" app and Windows 10 Mobile includes native Skype integration?

 

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