Xbox Video, meanwhile, is Microsoft's answer to Apple's iCloud for movies and TV shows. On PCs and the Xbox 360, users can buy a video once and play it on either device. But the experience won't be so seamless for Windows Phone 8; according to Microsoft's website, users will have to sync videos from a compatible PC to watch them on their phones.
The open question of third-party apps
If there's one area where Microsoft is decidedly behind its top rival Apple, it's in the lack of a unified app marketplace for Windows Phones and tablet PCs. Although Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 have a shared core, which means less work for developers who want to target both platforms, their respective app stores are separate.
As a result, users of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will have to purchase and maintain one set of apps for PCs and another set for phones.
In fairness, Apple has separate stores for Mac and iOS; but even then, developers can tie their apps together via iCloud. For instance, the task manager Clear uses iCloud to keep its iOS and Mac apps in sync; even though the stores are separate, the experience carries across platforms.
Microsoft's Dharmesh Mehta says that app developers can use SkyDrive to store content across Windows Phone and Windows Phone 8, but that's more for personal content such as documents, photos, and notes, not data that apps rely on for core functionality.
The company also has mentioned cross-platform Xbox games on occasion, but it has yet to issue a long list of games that run across consoles, phones, and tablets. The idea of a single-app experience across all devices is something that Microsoft hasn't realized in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
I bet that it's not all the way there yet, says Russ Whitman, chief strategy officer for Ratio Interactive, a contract developer of apps for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and other platforms. He thinks that Microsoft will eventually enable some sort of cross-platform syncing for phone and PC apps, but he isn't sure how it would work.
As for having separate app stores for phones and PCs, Whitman believes Microsoft is missing an opportunity. I would love to see them do a single binary solution, he says.
Ross Rubin of Reticle Research thinks it wouldn't be too difficult for Microsoft to tie its phone and PC app stores together so that users can have one place to find apps for both platforms, but he notes that Microsoft's first priority is to accumulate a large number of apps for each that are optimized for their respective screen sizes.
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