Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 have more than just a numeral in common. Take one look at the two operating systems, and you can tell that Microsoft wants to unify Windows Phone devices, Windows 8 tablets and PCs, and its Xbox game console.
If looks aren't proof enough, consider the words of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who trumpeted the company's newfound synergy at its Build conference this week. If you want the best experience with your Windows computer, youll own a Windows Phone, he said.
But just how unified are Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8? Is this really a huge step forward in Microsoft's vision for the "three screens," or is the grand Windows ecosystem still an empty promise? Here's a close look at how Windows 8and by extension, Windows RTand Windows Phone 8 tie together, and what you can expect when using both.
Two types of Windows, a single aesthetic
In Microsoft's attempt to redefine itself, the company has rolled out a modern visual style across its products, featuring hard-edged rectangles, solid colors, monochromatic icons, and the repeated use of one classy-looking font.
Through these tiles you get a glimpse at photos, text messages, unread email counts, weather forecasts, and other information, all without opening their respective apps.
In both operating systems, you can customize your Start screen by pinning and resizing app tiles, and by deciding which ones should update with live information.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, says that the common design elements are an advantage for users of both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
If the question is 'What are the benefits of staying within the ecosystem?' then consistency is a benefit, Rubin says. You don't have to relearn how to navigate, you understand the Live Tiles, you understand the notion of pinning.
It may be a benefit for Microsoft as well. Although Windows Phone hasn't earned much market share, Windows 8 adoption should be automatic as people buy new PCs. They'll become familiar with the modern interface and its Windows Store apps, and perhaps warm to Windows Phone 8 in the process. (Microsoft is phasing out use of the Metro name, and has now labeled the modern apps as Windows 8 Store apps.)
The tile user interface is consistent across smartphones, tablets, and PCs now, says Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin. That's a very important strategic move by Microsoft, and one that I think could pay off.
All about files, with SkyDrive
Interface similarities provide a superficial bond between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but SkyDrive is part of the glue that holds them together. The online storage service hooks into both operating systems, so users can keep their photos, videos, and documents within reach.
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