With Windows 8, the days of getting junk software with your printers, cameras, and external hard drives may be over.
Microsoft wants external device makers to create Metro-style apps for Windows 8. The Windows 8 app store will install these apps automatically when the hardware is connected, and they can have the same sharing features and Metro aesthetics as other third-party programs.
See also: Microsoft Windows 8 review
"Automatic installation means that all your customers will get your app," Eugene Lin, Principal Program Manager Lead for Microsoft, told device makers at the company's BUILD conference this week. "This is really your chance to impress them."
But here's the thing: Microsoft will only install one Metro-style app per external device. That forces hardware makers to be judicious about the software that comes with their products, and abstain from including, say, weight loss software with their printers. "We do that because users can see the physical connection between, 'I connected one thing, and I got one thing,'" Lin said. "And ... it's up to the partners to decide what makes their device a good device or not."
Microsoft's also hoping that Metro-style apps will result in more useful external hardware. Device apps will be able to use Windows 8's "Share" function to make their services available to other apps. So for example, a smartphone's PC software could send images or documents to the phone from within any other application.
Devices will also be able to add more functionality to built-in Windows 8 features. For instance, a Webcam can introduce additional photography settings to the native Windows 8 camera app.
Users who don't want these apps can delete them, just as they would with any other Metro app. A link to re-download the software from the Windows 8 app store will appear in the control panel. If the user isn't connected to the Internet when the hardware is plugged in, Windows 8 will remember to download the software once the PC is online.
Of course, there's no guarantee that device makers will follow Microsoft's suggestions. They're still free to bundle software on a disc and install it to the desktop side of Windows 8. But going through Microsoft and the app store will be the only way for device makers to include Metro-style apps with their hardware. If Metro is the future of Windows, hopefully device makers will want to get on board.