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November 17, 2010

Microsoft News - Find Hardware and Software with Microsoft Windows Product Scout

By Lance Whitney, Journalist, IT Consultant, Web Developer

Last month I wrote a column about a Microsoft website called Windows PC Scout, which tries to help you find the right computers for yourself or your business users. Microsoft (News - Alert) recently opened a similar site called Windows Product Scout, which tries to help you find the right hardware and software for you or your users.

Windows Product Scout sports a home page with rows of product categories floating about. You can click on any row to bring it to the forefront. But you’ll probably find it much quicker and easier to just hover over the “Find a Product” window where you can search for an item or browse through a list of categories. Here the Scout breaks down its offerings into three groups: Applications, Devices, and Windows 7 Features.

Say that you’re looking for a certain type of software. Clicking on Applications shows you a list of all the software that Microsoft has compiled for the site. You can narrow down the selection by clicking on a specific category, such as Education, Messaging, Productivity, or Social Networking. A list of products then appears on the right. Clicking on an item that interests you drills down to the product’s page where you can read more about it, visit the publisher’s website, or download it directly.

The applications include both free and paid software, so the paid downloads are for trial versions. Right now the Product Scout is brand new, so Microsoft’s selection of applications is extremely limited. I found only a few products in each category. For example, under Productivity, I discovered Microsoft’s own Office Home and Student 2010 and an AutoCAD program from Autodesk, among just a few other applications. Under Creativity I found photo studio suites from Roxio (News - Alert) and Cyberlink scattered among a few other choices. But the number and variety of programs should hopefully increase over time.

Searching for a piece of hardware? Clicking on the Devices group shows you a list of printers, routers, monitors, webcams, and other components. You can click on a specific category to see just those items. Again, you won’t find a wide assortment of products at this point. The Printer category displays only nine different printers. But as the site takes off, I’d expect to see a greater selection.

Finally, you can view both applications and devices in one shot by clicking on the Windows 7 Features group. This lets you drill down to products that tie into certain Windows 7 features, such as Windows Media Center and Windows 7 multitouch.

Windows Product Scout may also be worth checking out as a sign of things to come. Recent rumors about Windows 8 suggest that Microsoft is planning to follow in the footsteps of Apple’s (News - Alert) mobile App Store by launching its own Windows App Store with the next iteration of Windows. The new store would reportedly let you search for and download both free and paid Windows apps.

Microsoft does currently have its own product store as well where you can search for and buy commercial software and hardware. The Microsoft Store sells the company’s own Windows-based applications and peripherals and offers a range of computers and hardware from other vendors.

Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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