Pictures are important, and plentiful, both Apple and now Microsoft are recognizing. During its preview of the Windows 10 operating system today (Jan. 21), Microsoft teased a new Photos app that runs across PC and mobile devices, that organizes, enhances and syncs photos across devices through its OneDrive cloud service.
Unlike Apple, which last year gave a thorough preview of its iCloud Photo Library service and its upcoming app, also named Photos (due later this year), Microsoft showed just a tease. Based on what we have seen, it's hard to tell if Windows 10's tools will be more or less powerful.
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Windows 10 is designed to work on both PCs and mobiles, so syncing content and settings is a priority. Windows 10's Photos app will achieve that through Microsoft OneDrive. Microsoft didn't specify what the service would cost, but you'd presumably pay by how much storage you use.
OneDrive offers the first 15GB for free, with storage going up to 1TB for a $7 monthly fee. Apple's iCloud starts at a free 5GB and goes up to 1TB for a hefty $20 per month. iCloud stores photos in nearly any format, including massive RAW files, which are several times larger than JPEGs and will suck up a lot of space. A busy day of shooting in RAW can easily fill up an 8GB card, already exceeding iCloud's free plan. Microsoft didn't say what formats it will support
In comparison, online photo site Flickr offers 1TB for free with advertising on your pages or a modest $25 per year for an ad-free version. It stores only JPEG, GIF (non-animated), and PNG image files, as well as several video files. Flicker has apps with editing abilities for iOS and Android, but not for desktops
Powerful photo organizing
Windows 10 puts a priority on organizing your photos, starting with an automatic ability to find and consolidate duplicates. If you have thousands of photos from different devices — which isn't hard to do — you likely have a lot of duplicates from shuttling photos between those devices. If Window's 10's dupe elimination is as good as Microsoft promises, this could save you a lot of time organizing your collection.
Microsoft's app will automatically create albums of photos based on the place they were shot, when they were shot and on who is in them — presumably using face recognition. Photos won't let you sort by people. At its press conference, Microsoft also said that its photos app will give you albums a name, "if we can." It's not clear why the app would or wouldn't be able to do it.
Windows 10 will also pretty up your album, picking a "hero" or cover image and starting off with a sample of the best or most popular photos.
Auto enhancing could dumb things down
By default, Windows 10 will automatically enhance photos — removing red eye, and probably adjusting items such as brightness, contrast and color. You can turn these features off, however. What Microsoft didn't specify is how much, if at all, you can make your own manual adjustments. Photos in comparison leaves pictures as they are but provides powerful editing tools that range from one-click auto fixes to granular controls.
Below is a comparison of the many things we know about Photos and iCloud Photo Library and the first details about the Windows 10 photo app.
|iOS 8.1, OS X Yosemite
|Windows 10 (PC and mobile)
|Storage upgrades: monthly fees
|Auto enhance and full manual controls (incl. exposure, highlights shadows, saturation)
|Auto enhancement (as far as we know)
|Filtering by moments, collections, years
|Duplicate elimination; albums by place, time and person
|File types supported
|JPEG, RAW, PNG, GIF, TIFF, and MP4 video.
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Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.