I’ve had an iPad since they were first released, and my iPad 3 is my favourite tech device (Instapaper while sitting on the couch is the killer app). But it meant that i was able to pass my iPad 1 off to my girl friend.

At this point, one of my friends suggested that I should purchase an Apple TV as they are so cheap! I purchased one, and suddenly my girlfriend was watching TV shows by herself on the TV via iPad + apple TV AirPlay. I’d shown her a number of times how she can try getting things working herself with a laptop, through PC cables, windows media centre machines, etc. But it wasn’t until she saw the air play icon within all of her iPad apps, that she started taking advantage of connecting devices to the TV.

Which brings me to Windows 8. Microsoft keeps touting the “Play To” feature as a killer app for the OS, but unfortunately it just is not visible enough. I’m an avid user of Windows 8, but it took me active research on the internet to find out how to do the same thing with windows 8. The answer: you need to be in a Metro app that supports it, be in the correct place in the application, know that the app supports it, so that you know to go into the charms bar, select devices, select the correct device, etc.

Contrast this to the iOS method: whenever you are viewing media that you can stream to another device, you see this icon

And here is a screenshot of it in a typical media player app
It is right there, built into the OS, and 3rd party developers know to use that standard icon. It is a design guideline that has helped make the feature so prominent through so many apps.

The closest I can find is a Windows Media Player Play To icon,
but it definitely isn’t “Metro” enough to be embedded in UIs.

If Microsoft wants to become a serious contender in the tablet + home device market, then I suggest they start coming up with their own standard icon for developers to embed into their apps, similar to the AirPlay icon.
Get on it Microsoft!

By David Burela