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Welcome To The New Microsoft

This has been a week full of surprises from Microsoft. They're doing things that the company historically has never done. What the heck is going on up in Redmond?

This has been a week full of surprises from Microsoft. They're doing things that the company historically has never done. What the heck is going on up in Redmond?The biggest story by far was that Microsoft is abandoning its own Windows Live Spaces blogging platform and moving users to WordPress. This isn't some sort of it-will-happen-eventually, it's effective immediately. According to Microsoft, existing Windows Live Spaces (WLS) bloggers will be able to move their existing entries to WordPress as well.

Now there aren't a lot of people who would say WLS is a powerhouse blogging platform, although Microsoft says there are 30 million active bloggers on it today. Users will no doubt be better served by being on a mainstream platform like WordPress. Yet that has never been a reason for Microsoft to avoid plugging away at their own software. Yet here they are, deciding that it's time to give up on something. Plus, they've gone through the trouble of figuring out a smooth transition that results in minimal disruption to their users. In a world where startups regularly enter the deadpool and leave their users in the lurch, that alone is a pleasant difference.

Another pleasant difference showed with the announcement of an update to Windows Live Office. When it came out, I wasn't sure whether Microsoft was truly committed to WLO, or was simplify "webifying" Office to reduce the flight to Google Docs. This new update came out only three months after the original release, and took off several rough edges from the original release. It's still more of an accessory to desktop Office than a replacement for it, but I like the direction it's taking.

Microsoft hosts plenty of blogs and forums on its own sites for employees to discuss their products, such as Internet Explorer. Yet this week also saw the IE team travel to Reddit to answer questions. That was something I hadn't seen before, although the results were mixed. I still think the answers were a bit too Microsoft-scripted and could have been more direct. If Microsoft wants to be successful and seem sincere in this outreach to social sites, they'll need to leave the marketing and legal teams behind.

If this week is indicative of what we can expect from the "new Microsoft" then maybe it's not going to be so easy to forecast what the company might do. These may be small examples, but it shows that it's possible for the company to change; even that seemed unlikely a couple of years ago.

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