The folks at Intel recently sent me Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch laptop to try out for a couple of weeks (we'll be publishing a review soon). To outfit the laptop, Intel sent me $25 to spend on Windows 8 apps. $25 -- that's all.
That sounded like a fun, practical challenge: How far could I stretch 25 bucks when buying apps I might actually use for work? Business users are the X1's sweet spot, as has historically been the case with the ThinkPad line. Fruit Ninja and Big Buck Hunter need not apply.
It was fun -- and it was a challenge. The fun part was pretty straightforward: It's always better to shop with someone else's money.
The challenges were a little more varied. A big one was, of course, limited funds. That's something most small businesses and individuals can relate to. If I could buy whatever I wanted, this would be a longer list. Alas, that's not the real world. So although I was intrigued by apps like Tweetro, even its $9.99 price tag was too high.
Price was a factor when deciding which of two similar apps to keep for the list as well. For example, if I kicked the tires on two relatively similar apps and one cost $1.49 and the other $2.99, the lower price often won out, even if that meant forgoing a feature or two.
Another challenge was supply. It's no secret that the Windows Store doesn't have a big inventory compared with other marketplaces, especially Apple's and Google's. There just aren't as many apps yet, especially if you exclude categories such as games and entertainment.
Patience could pay off for Windows devotees, though. The Windows Store shows promise. It looks good and although there are some kinks, it's mostly easy to use. But it's going to need time, perhaps a lot of it, for developers to put some meat on the relatively lean app menu.
My self-imposed ground rules: I skipped free apps, which are obviously great for tight budgets. (I'll cover my favorite free Windows 8 apps -- from the obvious Skype to the not-so-much Windows 8 Cheat Keys -- in a separate article.) I also passed on apps that might be great but don't really fit my day-to-day job. Interesting apps such as Rental Manager for property managers and Binterview for HR and recruiters caught my eye, but I'm not a landlord and I'm not hiring.
Keep in mind, too, that I'm not necessarily stamping these apps as the gold standards in modern computing. The goal was to come up with a good mix of work tools while staying within a meager budget. Your mileage may vary. (Tips and suggestions are welcome in the comments and via email or Twitter.)
My grand total: $24.42. Tough to leave that $0.58 on the table, but a budget's a budget -- or so I thought. My zeal to come up with a good mix -- and perhaps some questionable accounting acumen -- caused me to forget about sales tax of $1.63, which put me at $26.05. Rather than drop one of the apps, I decided I could stomach a cost overrun of $1.05. Read on for what my spending got me.