More thoughts on Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface Pro

Now that I’ve had a bit more time to use the Surface Pro, my view of it hasn’t changed. It is nice hardware with imperfect software that has potential to get better. I have had some other thoughts, however.

I believe Windows 8 is a turning point for Microsoft. Microsoft is becoming more and more like Google and Facebook in that their product is not software and operating systems – their product is us. We are not the consumers anymore, but the product. Data about us is what Microsoft is gathering with Windows 8. I can’t quite say who the customers are or how Microsoft will profit from it, but it is pretty clear that we are being aggregated, profiled, and explored more than ever before by Microsoft products. And I don’t think our best user experience is the main goal.

To begin with, the account you use to sign into Windows 8 is a Microsoft web account (a Live account or similar). Since I created a new one to be able to buy the Surface from the Microsoft Store, I chose to use that one. I have another couple of Microsoft accounts, including one I use at work, but since this was a personal purchase, I didn’t want to use it. I’ll discuss issues with the other one later.

So, we log into the machine with our web-based username and password. Microsoft now synchronizes all our account info to the web so that data can follow us from machine to machine. I don’t have another Windows 8 machine, so I don’t know what is synchronized and what isn’t, but I can imagine IE bookmarks, for example. I assume that none of us mind Microsoft being able to store and read our bookmarks, right?

Even more interesting is that there doesn’t seem to be an official Facebook App for Windows 8. Yes, there are lots of 3rd party ones, but I trust them much less than I trust Microsoft. So what is the solution? There is a People App that will show your Facebook friends’ updates. Good, right? No. You can’t just login to Facebook from the App, but you need to associate your Microsoft web ID with your Facebook profile, essentially giving Microsoft access to your Facebook. That’s a showstopper right there, so I haven’t done it and don’t plan to, no matter how great the People App promises to be.

And then there’s the Games App. It will be happy to link up with my Xbox Live account, except my Xbox Live ID is not the same as the Microsoft ID that I used to login to Windows 8. Any way around it? Nope, I’d have to create a separate Windows 8 user for my Xbox Live account, thus fragmenting my identity on the Surface.

So Microsoft really wants to aggregate all our information in one place, under our Microsoft ID. They want our Facebook info, our Xbox info, and who knows what else. And the system won’t work without that info, so it is required to get the best experience from Windows 8. I think I’m just going to treat the Surface Pro as a fancy touch-enabled Windows 7 machine and avoid getting sucked into the Microsoft privacy-reducing ecosystem.

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