Just because Windows 8 is leveraging the Xbox brand for Xbox Live Games doesn’t mean that Microsoft automatically runs away with this round. Just look at Xbox Live for Windows Phone. Having this feature on board, though, certainly doesn’t hurt.
You’ll see a Spotlight option promoting new titles, and scrolling to the right displays your collection as well as links to the Windows and Xbox game marketplaces. As with Windows Phone, you have the option of personalizing your own avatar.
Microsoft bundled a couple of games with its preview, including “Pinball FX.” It has rich graphics but expectably ordinary game play. “Hydro Thunder Hurricane” was more action-packed. Full-fledged desktop games such as “Mass Effect 3” will be listed, but not sold, in the Windows Store.
Game Center for OS X is very similar to the iOS version, a gaming social network that helps you discover new diversions and friends to enjoy them with, as well as see how you stack up against the competition. Invites from buddies will pop up on your screen if you get challenged.
Since Game Center already has a huge user base of 100 million registered users and counting, and because Games is the most popular category in the Mac App Store, we see a lot of potential for Mountain Lion to help Apple chip away at Windows’ lead in PC gaming. And, unlike Windows 8, you can purchase everything from casual iOS-like titles such as “Angry Birds Space” to such immersive titles as “Grand Theft Auto San Andreas” from the same store. No segregation here.
While it’s annoying that you’ll be able to discover desktop games in the Windows Store but not buy them there, there’s no denying that Windows is still the premiere platform for gaming. And having Xbox Live in the mix will be a nice perk for the casual crowd.
In addition to screening apps for viruses before they’re submitted to the Windows Store, Windows 8 protects against threats in multiple ways. For example, the Trusted Boot feature can prevent malware from starting before the OS does, which should thwart rootkits. SmartScreen technology detects potentially malicious sites and is built into OS to check downloaded files for malware.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview ships with Windows Defender, which now includes the same level of protection as Microsoft Security Essentials. Third-party security apps will work with Windows 8, including software from F-Secure, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Norton, Panda and Trend Micro.
Many have questioned Apple’s responsiveness to a recent Flashback Trojan that reportedly infected more than 600,000 OS X users. Apple eventually released a tool to remove the threat, but it came later than many would have liked.
Apple is shoring up its defenses with Gatekeeper, which is designed to protect users from downloading or installing malware. Developers can sign apps with a Developer ID too, which gets identified by the OS to make sure that it’s safe to use. Gatekeeper also gives you a measure of control over this feature, allowing you green-light app downloads from “Anywhere,” “Mac App Store” and “Mac App Store and identified developers.”
The recent high-profile attacks against OS X have understandably shaken the confidence of security experts and Mac users alike, but that doesn’t change the fact that Windows remains the biggest target because of its huge install base. Nevertheless, Apple has to step up its game and be more proactive in order to deal with a new wave of criminals capitalizing on the increased popularity of Macs.