Microsoft is headed towards a huge shift in their consumer product line this Fall. With the releases of Windows 8, Windows 8 RT, and Window Phone 8 the landscape of the entire company is changing. Some are very vocal about not liking this shift. I, on the other hand, think it is the best thing the company has ever done.
I like when my products work with each other. I feel like I can move around my house and interact with a ton of things with a set of machines. It’s a lovely, futuristic feeling. Searching through this site you can find out pretty easily that I love technology and its advances. If I can afford a new technology, I have my hands on it one way or another. The old RAZR flip phone, the original iPhone, every major console that has release since the NES, new PC processors, the G1 Android phone, a two-way slide Helio Ocean, the original iPad, the Xoom, the HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 device. I could go on, really. I could go on for a while.
I’m an early adopter and while it has bit me several times, I can’t see myself stopping any time soon. There’s a certain feeling that comes along with having a new piece of tech before many others. It isn’t a feeling of superiority. Not at all. It’s the feeling that I’m keeping myself ahead of the curve. I’m bringing my life further into the future.
So that brings us to Microsoft’s future: the Metro UI. As gamers, we all know Metro very, very well. It is the way we control and navigate through our Xbox 360′s. Whether you love or hate, you cannot deny how easy and intuitive it is use. That is the number one thing that Metro gets right. It’s simple! It brings you the most information or set of choices in a condensed and manageable way without making you feel like it is cluttered or hard on the eyes. This is prevalent even more on the mobile side of things.
Starting originally on the Zune, the Metro UI has flourished on mobile devices. Be it an old Zune HD or a Windows Phone 7 device, Metro’s mobile interface allows the owner to mess around with it. You can expand app tiles, you can move things around, and change the way they look. With the upcoming Windows Phone 8 OS, you can even shrink tiles and allow for many apps to be featured on your screen. It is versatile while keeping the simplicity of things intact.
This translates very well even on the computer as Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT bring Metro either to a very usable home screen or to the forefront (if you are using RT). For those reading who have no idea what Windows 8 RT is, you need to know how Windows 8 works first. Basically, Windows 8 has two modes: Metro and Desktop. You can fly through tiles in Metro and use the brand new full screen apps and have access to the Windows Store. For people who are very into PC gaming, this is a side of the new OS that will have to flourish for you to like it but it you spend time with it, you’ll see its amazing potential. Desktop mode is exactly what it sounds like. It takes you to a normal, current desktop where you can use just about every program you use now without issue. They call this Legacy as now everything before Windows 8 is old school.
Windows 8 RT is everything I said up there, minus the Desktop mode. It is pure Metro and designed for tablets in mind. Can computers and notebooks use? Sure. Why am I explaining this when the title clearly talks about Xbox Live, though? Because knowing the difference between the upcoming Metro devices is very important for gamers.
I said earlier that I enjoy having my devices work with each other. I like that futuristic, connected feeling. The future for Windows and Microsoft as a whole is one that I can get into. Let’s look at the devices that I am going to be buying between this October and the end of the year:
- Windows 8 Ultimate
- Microsoft Surface tablet (Windows 8 RT)
- HTC 8X Windows Phone 8 device (Verizon)
Now couple those three purchases with my current Xbox 360 and my house is now more connected than ever. From my computer area to my TV and from there to my hands and pocket, I can stream and see anything I wish using nothing but the newest technologies from Microsoft. I can take advantage of SmartGlass with my Surface and 360. I can wireless stream content from my computer to my Surface, 360, and 8X cell phone. The possibilities are endless because I am now connected in so many facets.
Another area I’m connected with? Xbox Live. I will be able to connect to Xbox Live to play, earn, chat, and browse on my TV, computer, tablet, and phone. At all times of the day I can be on Xbox Live to check for deals, new releases, what my friends are playing, earned achievements, and much more.
Again, this feeling of pure connectivity is something that I revel in. Knowing that I can leave the house, sit somewhere, open a game on my 8X, and earn achievements or talk to an Xbox Live friend is awesome. Doing the same thing on my Surface with Cloud Saves means I can take my desktop gaming experience anywhere.
Wait, what? That must have caught your attention. If Windows 8 RT abolishes the Desktop mode, how can I play desktop games? Steam is releasing a Windows 8 Metro app sometime down the line. Plus, it was recently seen that Epic was able to get the full Unreal Engine 3 to work on Windows RT meaning as long as the specs hold up, games like Arkham City can be in my backpack or briefcase ready for me to play at anytime, anywhere. This means I can earn achievements and use Xbox Live to its fullest anywhere, as well.
The new Windows experience is going to own me. I’ve been using Windows 8 since the Developer Preview and with every release of a new preview, it has become very reliable, usable, and helpful. It may take you some time to get used to this new experience but trust me, you’ll be flying through Metro soon enough or feeling just at home on Desktop mode.
I applaud Microsoft for taking this step in making their product line inter-connectable and something that can become the hive mind for your technology in your house, workplace, and school. They aren’t the first, that is obvious. Apple has done this with their Mac OSX and iDevice line-up but gaming is prevalent on the PC and that is what makes this Microsoft future so exciting for me and other gamers.
Bring on the Metro future!