to roll out its
8, this month. We
gave the preview
version a whirl to
see if it warrants
The biggest change to
the system is the home
screen, which replaces
standard Windows icons
with brightly colored
tiles. On a touchscreen
tablet, laptop, or desk-top computer, you can
tap the tiles to open
them or move them
around the screen. On
a standard computer,
you can click on the tiles
with a mouse or track
pad. Or, you can skip
the new home screen
altogether and load
the older interface.
You can choose from
hundreds of apps in
the Windows Store and
add them to your home
screen. Another handy
feature: You can sync
your wallpaper and
Internet settings across
multiple devices, and
they will load instantly
when you log in.
During our test, the
system was nimble.
The tiles worked best
on a tablet, but they
also made our non-touchscreen laptop
easier to navigate.
Until the end of
Windows users can
upgrade to Windows 8
Pro for $39.99. Our
verdict? The system is a
nice step forward. —J.B.
TECH TRENDS JOHN BRANDON
next on the agenda
smartphone scheduling apps
i’ve always had a hard time staying on schedule during business trips, which usually include multiple meetings in various locations. If I had my way, I’d bring along an assistant. On a recent trip to Denver, I tried the next best thing: two new mobile apps, Google Now and Cue. Google Now, which comes loaded on smartphones and tablets running the new Android 4. 1 operating system, works with Google Calendar, Maps, and searches, along with your device’s GPS. I tested it on Google’s Galaxy Nexus phone. During the day, I could touch
the Google search bar on my
home screen to see “cards” with
Before I left my hotel,
Google Now served up a card
with the weather forecast for
Denver. As I drove downtown, a
card appeared with information
on a nearby bus route. Later that day,
I received a reminder for a 3 p.m.
meeting one hour in advance, along
with a map, directions, and an estimated driving time of 55 minutes based
on current traffic. I hustled out the
door and arrived just in time. Thanks,
After two days, the software got
smarter. Each morning, for instance,
it provided an estimated driving time
from my hotel to downtown Denver.
As I headed back to my hotel around
dinnertime, it pulled up cards with
details on nearby restaurants, including
links to a map, directions, and reviews.
Not quite an assistant, but close.
On the second half of my trip, I tried
Cue, a free app for iPhones. Unlike
Google Now, Cue is not location based.
Instead, it organizes your daily schedule
by scanning information in linked apps
on your phone. The free version of Cue
lets you choose from more than a dozen
apps, including Gmail, Google Calendar,
Android 4. 1
Maps, and searches
More than 20 mobile
apps, including Gmail
Free for a basic
$4.99 a month
and Open Table (for dinner reservations). You can also pony up $4.99 a
month for a premium account that you
can link with business-friendly apps,
including Salesforce and Evernote.
When I added an appointment with a
Denver start-up to my Google Calendar,
it appeared on my Cue schedule in about
10 minutes, along with the location and
name of the marketing director who
e-mailed the meeting invitation. When I
received a FedEx shipping confirmation
in Gmail, the tracking number and a link
to FedEx.com popped up on my schedule. Cue handles flight confirmations the
same way. The level of detail was impressive, but I missed the maps and real-time
traffic updates. In fact, I was late to some
appointments because of traffic.
The bottom line: If you spend a lot of
time on the road, Google Now is great. If
you’re looking for a scheduling app that
works with a variety of programs, Cue is
the way to go. For me, there was a clear
winner: Google Now, you’re hired.
FROM TOP: COUR TESY SUBJECT; SCOTT MENCHIN