Understanding your options for more sophisticated video needs


In the old days, users would manage their media collections on their PCs and then sync a subset of their photo, music, and video content with devices and share a further subset via discs, USB devices, and online services. While these activities are still possible in Windows 8, and will no doubt be quite popular for some people, Microsoft is embracing a new way of doing things that more closely mirrors related changes in the tech industry.

The new way of doing things was triggered by a technological advance called cloud computing . In this new model, your data isn’t stored on a single hard disk on a single PC, where it’s inaccessible from other PCs and devices and could potentially suffer from data loss because of a catastrophic hardware failure. Instead, the data is stored in the cloud–in powerful, geographically redundant data centers run by major corporations we actually trust–and is always accessible from any PC or device.

In this new cloud computing model, all of your data is always available on your PC, just like before. But now you can pick up almost any other PC or device and still access your data seamlessly, because it’s automatically synced for you. Microsoft pioneered this new approach with Windows Phone back in 2010, and it’s finally going mainstream with Windows 8.

You can see cloud computing’s impact on Windows 8 in many places, from the new Microsoft account sign‑in to the synced settings and the mobile device–like productivity apps discussed in the previous chapter. But the system’s photos and entertainment capabilities, related to digital photos, music, and video, are an interesting case. This is because Microsoft had previously spent over a decade delivering an increasingly powerful but complex series of applications and services through its Windows Media and Zune product lines, to which hundreds of millions of Windows users have grown accustomed.

Today, those services are being reorganized under the Xbox entertainment brand. Previously, Xbox meant one thing and one thing only, video games. But Xbox is evolving into a more general purpose entertainment platform, adding digital music and video to its stable of capabilities. (Photos remain separate because users’ photos are their own and are not acquired from a central location.)

If you’re not ready to move forward and utilize online services like SkyDrive to store your music collection, or rent and buy movies and TV shows from Microsoft’s Xbox‑based marketplaces, no need to worry; all of the local‑based digital media capabilities in Windows 7 are still present in Windows 8. But as with the rest of this book, this chapter focuses solely on the new capabilities. And in this specific case, that means enjoying digital photo, music, and video content in new ways through new Metro experiences.



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