CROSSREF. The Xbox Music and Video Marketplaces are discussed in Chapter 9.

The Xbox Music and Video Marketplaces are discussed in Chapter 9.

 

OK, so Windows Store is the app store for Windows. That’s not a terrifically difficult concept, nor is the notion that Windows is supported by a surrounding ecosystem of related products and services. It’s always been this way, of course, and with Windows 7, for example, we discussed how related products and services like Bing, Windows Live, and Zune “complete” the Windows experience. This sort of thing is absolutely still true today, though some of the brands have changed. But with Windows Store and the Windows 8 extensibility capabilities that its apps can take advantage of, things are a bit more nuanced today. They’re also terrifically more exciting.

Consider the way applications have always extended the capabilities of Windows. In the past you could purchase full‑featured applications like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop to meet certain needs, such as creating and editing word processing documents or graphics art projects, respectively. The integration these applications offered with the underlying OS (still do, in fact) was pretty much relegated to snagging file associations. So you might open .docx files in Word instead of the WordPad utility that shipped with Windows.

Smaller applications, or utilities, such as a Zip utility or an antivirus solution, often supplied similar integration capabilities that lit up capabilities through the Explorer shell.

At a basic level, these classic Windows applications make Windows better, somewhat generally, because they provide more capabilities than what is present solely in Windows. It’s fair to say that no one uses Windows because of Windows itself, per se, but rather because of the utility of the amazing collection of applications that are available for this system.

None of this changes with Windows 8. Microsoft and third‑party developers big and small will continue making traditional desktop‑based applications to enhance that part of the Windows experience.

What changes in Windows 8, however, is that developers are now shipping Metro‑style apps in addition to traditional Windows applications. Yes, some of them will simply be immersive, full‑screen replacements for existing Windows applications. You’ll see Metro‑style word processors and graphics art apps, for example. But some will be much more than that.

 

Remember, when we use the word app here, we are referring to Metro‑style apps. Applications are traditional desktop applications.

 

Thanks to the extensibility features in Windows 8, developers can now create apps that make Windows 8 better in unique ways. In fact, they make Windows 8 almost future‑proof in the sense that they can provide functionality to the OS that its makers didn’t even know would one day be desirable.

Consider the Windows 8 share contract. Through this system‑level service, apps can engage in two‑way conversations without ever knowing what app is on the other side. The canonical example is sharing a web page via e‑mail: Internet Explorer 10 for Metro supports one part of this contract–the ability to share an item, in this case a web page, with another app–and the Mail app supports the other part–the ability to receive a share request. This is a powerful feature because it’s available to any Metro‑style apps, and developers never need to know anything about the app that is on the other side of the equation. It’s like copy and paste, but about a hundred times more powerful.

In a few years, some entrepreneur we’ve never heard of may launch a new online service we’ve never imagined. And while anyone could write a third‑party app to support that service, with Windows 8, one could write an app that integrated with the OS’s unique extensibility features. So this new Metro‑style app for this new service could accept a share request from Internet Explorer 10 just like Mail does, but then do something completely different with it.

This is a simple (and purposefully vague) example. But the point is simple: Thanks to the massive and pervasive improvements to the underlying platform in Windows 8, apps aren’t just something you install and use as standalone islands of activity. They will often be truly integrated experiences that make Windows 8 better. And that means that as time goes by, and more and more apps appear, Windows 8 is only going to get better. And it will do so even if Microsoft never lifts a finger to make that so.

Windows Store, then, isn’t just a way to find new apps. It’s a way to make Windows 8 better. That’s just exciting.

 








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