Windows Store New Layout Rolling out; Windows 8 Contacts Cache Issues Overblown, Says Microsoft Analyst

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Windows Store New Layout Screen

Microsoft is rolloing out a revamped design for the Windows 8 Store layout. The new layout is not currently available worldwide -- however, some users from the UK, US and other part of the world are reporting to be seeing the new layout.

The new look screen above is tweeted by Michael Gillett in the UK has come unexpected, as there was no official announcement and makes it easier for users to navigate the store, while still keeping the Metro look.

In other Windows 8 news, a feature of Windows 8 contacts cache exposes personal data.

"As you may know, Windows 8 connects with all sorts of networks, social and otherwise. The Metro Mail app has built-in hooks for Hotmail, Gmail, and Exchange; Metro Photos links to Facebook and Flickr; the Metro People app (which stores contacts) can pull data from Hotmail, Gmail, Exchange, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn leaves a "lingering cache of automatically collected contacts [that] are stored unencrypted on a Windows 8 client"," reports InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard.

All you have to do is log on to Windows 8 with a Microsoft account, then go out and connect the online dots.

"You might not know -- that [Windows 8] doesn't build its Contacts list dynamically," Leonhard reports. "Instead, it keeps a cache of contacts from all of those sources stored on the machine. The cache persists even when the user logs off or the machine is turned off," revealed Leonhard.

"That means anyone who can sign on to your PC with an administrator account can see all of your contacts and all of their data -- names, email addresses, pictures, telephone numbers, addresses -- whatever you have on file or whatever's been sucked in from Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn," Leonhard writes.

Contrary to this surprising finding, Michael Cherry, a lead analyst for Directions on Microsoft, in an ITWorld article downplays this issue stating, "My sense is that Microsoft will take some steps to remedy any issues, but in the area of privacy, the remedy may simply be to tell people that their information is shared among the services."

Cherry says it is not just Microsoft, but all Internet services -- from e-mail services to social networking sites -- that are "standing on the dividing line of what people want -- communicating with people about who they are, but at the same time wanting to be aware when they do it."

"Operating systems cache data all the time," Cherry says. "If they had to rebuild all the time, things would run much slower, and you have to remember that in the back of [users'] minds is this impression that Windows is slower than the iPad. People want instant-on."

He also notes that those who use Apple products and have their laptops, iPads and iPods synced are putting that information into iCloud. "If you're living in this world, you're probably doing that with something," he says.

Mark Baldwin, principal researcher and consultant at InfosecStuff, says he doesn't think the risk is any greater with Windows 8 than with Windows 7. While the newer version, "is more tightly integrated with social media, it makes sense to cache that data to improve performance. As the author noted, one must have admin rights to view this data for a user other than yourself." "And if an unauthorized person has admin rights on your machine, then you have more problems to worry about than your Facebook and email contact information," he says.

Cherry says that he chooses to operate his computer with a "user" account. "The reason is because if I do something stupid, I want it to have limited impact," he says. If people are really concerned about their contact list, they can "flush all the caches" when they log off. "But it takes time to rebuild them all," Cherry says.

He believes Microsoft will address this issue, but says that aside from making available tools like encryption and flushing the cache, the best thing is simply to let users know how their information is being shared.

"On many sites, you have to go through many pages and read long documents," Cherry says. "At the end of the day, it's too hard to understand. Part of the fix would be to make it really clear."

Bonus: Here are couple of Windows 8 videos:

Cloud services for Windows 8 and Windows Phone - "Windows 8 is designed to be cloud-powered, so it comes with Metro style apps for communication, sharing, scheduling, photos, and videos. Preview versions of these apps come installed with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and include Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Messaging, and SkyDrive."

Metro in Windows 8 and Windows Phone (Part 1) demonstrate how the power exposed by Metro (through live tiles, push notifications, immersive user experiences, etc.) can be harnessed to provide a usable and intuitive application.

LIVE Q&A with Bruce Johnson and Atley Hunter: