Microsoft had to dramatically rethink how Windows and other services, like social networks, would work out of the box. Previous versions of Windows didn’t have any social network integration with non-Microsoft products. There was always Windows Live Messenger, but it wasn’t included in the operating system nor did it integrate with any service other than Microsoft’s own. Windows 8 completely scraps that paradigm and includes great applications that integrate with just about every major social network and service.
Take the Photos app for example. Once you log into with your Microsoft Live account, all the social networks that you’ve linked to it previously will show up. Photos from your Facebook, Flickr, and SkyDrive are automatically populated in the app. No more signing into each account every time you set up a new computer. This makes setting up a new computer as simple as logging in. All of your networks and settings will be synced.
Let’s take a deeper look at how Microsoft has integrated social media and other services in Windows 8.
SkyDrive will be the core service that offers storage and sync between computers. If you use sync documents with SkyDrive, they will sync between machines so you have the most recent copy of every file available to you without having to manage multiple document libraries.
SkyDrive even powers sync between applications. Microsoft Office 2013 features sync for documents, settings, and templates so that your session from any computer using Office will remain the same. There will be no more headaches about not having a specific template or setting enabled at a different machine.
The People is a dramatic addition to Windows 8. It combines all of your contacts from your social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; but also includes contacts from Exchange so you have a unified hub of all your contacts. Microsoft has done a good job of making large contact lists manageable. You can quickly search for a specific contact. Clicking on a contact will not only bring up their information but will give you their latest tweets and Facebook status updates.
Perhaps the most useful feature within the People app is the ‘What’s new‘ tab where it will present all of your contacts tweets and updates. This is a great way to catch up on what your contacts are up to without having to download an additional application from the Windows Store. Twitter lovers will be happy to know that you can favorite, retweet and reply to all within the app. Although 3rd party Twitter apps like MetroTwit might work and look better, it’s nice to see Microsoft bake this into Windows 8.
The Photos app integrates with all the services that support photo sharing like Facebook and Flickr. This is great as it will populate your new Windows 8 machine with all your photos without having to transfer photos between machines. Flickr photos loaded up quickly and flicked back and forth smoothly. Facebook photos, on the other hand, crashed the Photos app repeatedly for me. Hopefully Microsoft polishes the app before Windows 8 releases.
Sharing between apps
One of the best features of Windows 8 is its ability to share content between applications. Developers are given access to sharing menus so that they can build sharing features to their apps. If you’re in the News application and see an interesting story that you want to share, pull up the Windows charms (read my Windows 8 controls guide if you don’t know how to do this) and choose which application you want to share to.
After choosing a specific app, you will be able to share the story within the app or a new application will open up. Sharing with the People app allowed me to use Twitter and Facebook from within the News app without pushing me into People app to do the sharing. Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion operating system attempts to make sharing easier for users but hasn’t even released its Facebook sharing features that it announced months ago. Windows makes sharing much easier for developers to integrate into the operating system.
Windows 8 makes sharing and keeping up to date with all your services a breeze. If you’re strictly a Google user, you probably won’t be satisfied with Microsoft’s integrated services but if you’re willing to give Microsoft’s SkyDrive service a shot, I think you’ll be very happy.