Things Windows should have
I’ve been using Windows 8.1 for quite a while now (since the beta), and I like still it very much. I’ve expanded my Windows landscape with a Surface tablet, and already had a Windows Phone (two, actually). The fact that the same OS runs on all is a cool thing which makes adopting it easier. But there are still a few things missing, so here is a list of things should be added into Windows 8.2 or Windows 9 or whatever they’re calling the next version.
By the way, the order of the items is random, not based on how much I’d like that feature to be in there.
- A password vault. I’m using Lastpass to store my passwords at this time. Although it’s a good app, the integration isn’t as high as you might want it to be. Microsoft has killed add-ons for the Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer, which means Lastpass cannot write a plugin which works on my Surface. Same goes for the phone.Microsoft tried to provide a unified identity system a few years back (remember Microsoft Passport?) but failed. OAuth works to some extent, but you might not want to log in to your banking website via your Facebook account (no really, you don’t want that). And reusing the same password everywhere is even worse. Windows should provide a store for passwords which works equally to Lastpass, but works everywhere and without setting up. When IE asks me if it should remember the password, it should be able to reuse that remembered password on my tablet and phone as well.
- The reading list app on all platforms. On my previous Android phone, I used read it later a lot, a nice little app to keep track of things you still need to read. It had a website, an app, all working nicely. Now on my tablet and laptop, Windows 8.1 features the reading list, which is basically the same with a different name. Works fine, but what the heck: there is no Windows Phone version. So when I’m reading my Twitter feed on my phone, see an article I like but want to read later; I’m screwed. Come on Microsoft, how hard can it be to create a reading list app for Windows Phone 8 as well to fill the gap (this will probably / hopefully be in 8.1 for Windows Phone)??
- Windows should have native support for profiles. Both the full size, RT and Windows Phone versions of the OS. One should be able to create multiple profiles linked to your user account. These profiles should be reusable / applicable to multiple devices at once. For instance; when I use my “at work” profile, I’d like all of my devices to be muted, not just my laptop or mobile phone. These profiles could also include which start screen I’m using, to display a set of icons used for work, or for personal usage. The rumored notification center could also interact with these profiles, making sure I’m not getting interrupted by Facebook messages whilst at work, on all of my devices.
- Volume control is another one which could be tightly integrated with that profiles feature. But even without profiles, volume control on Windows Phone should really improve. A lot. Switching between silent and vibrate only is really tedious at this time, should be a simple click or swipe since it’s something I tend to do multiple times a day. On my Android phone (again…) I had an app which automatically muted my phone after 11PM, and unmuted it again in the morning. Hey, there’s that notion of profiles again… Simple, but really loved it.
- The mess between Internet Explorer and Internet Explorer in Windows 8.1. That’s one of the things which still feels disconnected to me. It’s also one of the things I’m not sure how to fix. At this time, I’m typing in IE in desktop mode. Other times I would be using the Windows 8 IE app. The fact that you can have multiple browser types, instances and tabs open all at the same time makes it really easy to lose track of where you opened that particular webpage. Maybe there should be a choice if you want to use the desktop or Windows 8 version of IE by default. And then, all links and shortcuts should obey that setting, instead of opening the IE version based on the context the link was in. I’m not sure, but I’m sure the current way of working needs improvement. And I still believe IE should support add-ons, the Windows 8 version that is.
- Device interoperability. Now we’ve got the same OS running on multiple devices, the options should be endless. When I’m viewing a webpage on my phone, but there’s a lot of text to read; I’d like to be able to easily send that page to my tablet or laptop instead. Same for things like YouTube videos (send to Xbox!). In my opinion, Microsoft should provide developers with a framework to build in such capabilities without having to reinvent the whole wheel of finding connected devices and stuff like that. Tap & Send is a good start, but it’s not what it should be, yet. And for the MS apps (IE, Office, Mail), it should be in there natively.
- The same shared gestures. It took me a while to get used to it, but now swiping in the actions and charms has become a habit. But weirdly enough, the desktop / tablet version of Windows still behaves differently to Windows Phone. Why not copy the behavior and add the charms bar to Windows Phone as well? Could be handy to access settings, handle volume control (there it is again) and perhaps profiles as well now I think of it. One little problem though… on the Windows Phone start screen, a swipe from the right edge of the screen already takes you to your list of apps. Seems like MS created a roadblock for itself there.
- Redo search. This will be the last time I throw in an Android comparison. The search button, should do contextual search as it does in Android. Microsoft is killing it’s own experience by not handling this consistently. For some apps, the search charm is used to perform in-app searches (Lastpass is one of them). But for others, separate search boxes are being used. And weirdly, those include things like the Windows Store, Xbox Music, and so on. I really don’t get that. The fact that you can always find your search in the same place is a real good thing which helps people to adopt search better. It could also stimulate the use of Bing, which Microsoft should like. But instead, the experience now is inconsistent and confusing. Same goes for Windows Phone, where the search button on my phone is always throwing my back to Bing, instead of offering me the option to search the current app, like Spotify for instance. That was what I was used to on Android, where it works great.
That’s it for now. When I think of more, I’ll update the post. Still considering buying an Xbox, that choice partially depends on how well it’ll integrate with my other Windows based devices. We’ll see what the future brings, next up: GDR3 for Windows Phone 8.
Update: whilst searching for the next release date of an update for Windows Phone, I found this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRVC4BKWaP8. It features some great ideas on what the next version of Windows Phone could look like. It also features some of the ideas I described above (disclaimer: I wrote the post before I saw the video!). Makes me think there are others having the exact same ideas, which also makes me believe Microsoft will have probably thought of the same things too. Now to find out what they’ll be doing with those ideas. Let’s see what 2014 will bring us 🙂