Walt Mossberg

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What’s the Deal With Windows 8?

Q:

I’m interested in the new Microsoft Surface, but am confused about Windows 8. Some things I read say it can run my current Windows apps, like Outlook and Quicken and iTunes. Others say no. Which is it

A:

Both. There are two fundamental branches of Windows 8: The full version and a more limited version called Windows RT, which is what the Surface and some other new computers use. On the full version, you can run all the apps you mentioned, plus new-style, tablet type apps.

But, on RT — and therefore on the Surface — you can only run the new-style apps, plus a handful of Microsoft’s own traditional Windows apps that are included: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Internet Explorer. You can’t run any other traditional Windows apps.

Q:

Does Windows 8 support Adobe Flash on Web pages?

A:

Yes, but it depends on which of the two computing environments in Windows 8 you’re using. In the familiar desktop, the old-style version of Internet Explorer should run Flash the way it did in the past. In the new tablet-style Start screen, a new touch-optimized version of IE will only support Flash on selected Web pages where Microsoft has decided the experience is good. If Flash doesn’t work on the tablet-type IE, you can switch to the old style version of the browser.

Q:

I own an iPhone 3G, an iPad 2, an older iMac and a MacBook. All are great devices but I like the looks of the new Windows Phone and Windows 8 PCs. Are there tools available that would make it easy to use all of these things together and also make it possible to play my iTunes?

A:

Google and Microsoft make it easiest to remain within their own families of products and services, but mixed use is certainly possible. For instance, there’s a Windows version of iTunes that should run on Intel-powered Windows 8 PCs. And Microsoft makes an app called Windows Phone Connector for Mac that allows a Windows Phone to sync with iTunes and iPhoto on a Mac. I’ve used it and it works well. More information is at: http://bit.ly/VArueS.

Write to Walt at walt.mossberg@wsj.com.


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