The Windows 8 ecosystem: 5 best and 5 worst features

Across the entirety of Windows 8--from desktops to laptops to tablets to smartphones--what did Microsoft get right and wrong?

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Its commercial time

Never before has Microsoft been so unapologetic about tying its commercial interests so closely with the raw mechanics of its OS ecosystem. Although youre free to set up your own default applications in Windows 8, or to install other apps to manage the multimedia as you see fit, theres no question that Microsoft would prefer that you use its branded, tiled apps to watch or listen to content. And, oh, while youre there, perhaps you might like to rent or purchase a movie or two from one of the tiles advertised on your screen.

Its bad, folks. The Music app isnt so much a media player as a storefront for Xbox Music. The Games app isnt so much a portal for installed games as a platform for buying Windows 8 gamesand even Xbox 360 games. And the same conceit holds true for the Video app. These are sales tools, not user-focused programs, and the sales pitch persists throughout the Windows ecosystem.

Androidand even iTunes, to a lesser extentseparates commercialization from content to such a degree that its there if you want it, and you know how to reach it, but it isn't in your face, atop a lackluster multimedia player (or games browser). But in the new Windows ecosystem, no matter what youve paid for your device or for your subscription content, advertising is now a part of the norm. Thats not fun.

Region migration?

Although this issue wont affect the mainstay of Microsofts Windows 8 user base, one of the problems Microsoft has now created in unifying its ecosystem under a common accountthe Microsoft Accountis that transferring your account between regions is about two degrees short of impossible. In other words, if youve done a lot with your old Live ID in Europe, for instance, and are about to move to the States, youre in for a bit of a shock: Your new Microsoft Account will remain tied to the country where you created it.

Unfortunately, at the moment you can't just open a drop-down menu in some options panel and change over from, say, England to the United States. Without the ability to make such a switch, users lose the capability to pay for the very services Microsoft offersapps, Xbox Live points, and the likein addition to losing access to any region-locked apps, games, services, or subscriptions theyve already ponied up for.

What would have been an annoying issue in previous years is even worse now that Microsoft is tying a number of Windows 8s more compelling features to a users online account. Microsofts standard solutioncreate a new Microsoft Accountjust doesnt cut it anymore, not when the goal is to have a single sign-on for the entirety of the Windows 8 ecosystem.

The real solution is twofold. First, Microsoft should give its users the opportunity to switch their billing country without hassle. And second, those people who already took Microsoft up on its advice to create multiple accounts need the ability to merge multiple accounts into one.

Microsoft, however, would just prefer that you hold tight for now.

This story, "The Windows 8 ecosystem: 5 best and 5 worst features" was originally published by PCWorld.

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