Microsoft Surface 2 review: Sink or swim
Bing Maps, Windows Store, SkyDrive
The basic mapping solution in Windows 8.1 RT is Bing Maps. They have driving (and pedestrian) navigation for free, but they're not a match for Nokia's bespoke applications for Windows Phone.
Maps come in two styles - aerial view and map view. In aerial, you get satellite imagery, which is pretty clear but there's no Bird's eye or Streetside options in the app, which we find particularly strange given their presence in the web version.
Local Scout didn't make its way to Windows 8.1 RT - on Windows Phone it's the app that provides detailed information on places of interest around you - restaurants, shops, landmarks, etc.
While there is navigation on the Microsoft Surface, it lacks voice guidance and we can't see many people using the Surface as a navigation tool. Traffic information is available too.
The Windows Store is the only place you can find apps for Windows 8.1 RT. Compared to last year, the number of available apps has grown significantly, thus improving one of the OS's weakest points.
The Windows Store starts off with featured apps. Swiping to the right reveals recommended apps, trending ones, and top picks. The last two sections show top paid and top free apps.
Microsoft has gone through great lengths to address the lack of popular apps for Windows 8.1 RT. Compared to last year, there are a lot more of the popular app titles available here, including Dropbox, Flipboard, etc.
There are still some glaring omissions though. They include YouTube and alternative web browsers other than Internet Explorer.
Installing an app is easy - just go to the app and hit Install. You can check the download progress and a new tile being created in the start menu automatically. After an app has been installed you get a notification in the top right corner of the screen.
Overall, the Windows Store shows a great improvement compared to the work in progress it was last year. We reckon that Microsoft can further help its cause by charging for the same available paid apps the same amounts Apple and Google do. On some occasions, the price differences were quite substantial.
SkyDrive handles your personalization, app settings, passwords, language preferences, Office documents and much more. You can upload just about anything to SkyDrive and thus have it available across all of your Windows-powered handheld devices or PCs.
The app displays different categories for the uploaded content - Documents, Mobile uploads, camera roll, etc.
You can upload, create a folder or select multiple folders. You can upload multiple items at once. The upload menu gives you quick access to the most common apps from which users will upload - Photos, Desktop, Computer, etc.
The Photos app shows photos from your SkyDrive account and Office has the feature to automatically save documents to the cloud.
All in all, Windows 8.1 RT is doing very well to provide users with this easy back up option in case things go south and you need to reset your device.