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12/20/2012
08:48 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012

The past year saw some big wins, and big setbacks, for Microsoft. And then there's the special case of Windows 8.

Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Microsoft's effort to embrace a computing market in which the PC is taking a back seat to tablets and smartphones has been well documented in this column. Many of Redmond's troubles of late have arisen directly from that market evolution.

But don't count the company out just yet -- it had some solid breakthroughs in 2012. There were also several misfires. Here's a look back at Microsoft's biggest hits and misses of the past year.

Microsoft's 4 Big Hits

1. Windows 8
Microsoft has taken a lot of heat for Windows 8, and early sales are likely below expectations. Critics complain that the OS, with its Live Tiles interface, is too difficult to learn. But Redmond should be given credit for its bold move to introduce a truly innovative platform that separates Windows 8 devices from the iPad and me-too Android tablets.

Granted, Windows 8 could use some tweaking to make it more user friendly, and sales and distribution have been anything but smooth. But the software itself is rich, technically impressive (how about those seven-second boot times?), and secure. It should eventually make Microsoft a player in tablets while keeping its PC franchise intact.

2. Yammer Acquisition
Microsoft in June bought out business social networking and collaboration specialist Yammer for $1.2 billion. On its own it would have been a smart deal, as biz collaboration is one of enterprise software's hottest categories. But the deal makes even more sense given the synergies Microsoft can achieve by adding Yammer to its existing collaboration technologies.

Among the products that will benefit from getting bits and pieces of Yammer added in are Dynamics CRM, Skype, Sharepoint and Office 365.

3. Xbox SmartGlass
For the past couple of years, Microsoft has dribbled out a host of new products that appeared to have little connection to each other. Windows Phone, Windows 8, Live, Bing, Kinect, Azure and so on. Enter Xbox SmartGlass, a game-changing technology that ties it all together and promises to make Microsoft relevant again in the consumer market.

SmartGlass is a collection of apps and embedded technologies that form an ecosystem, one in which digital content can migrate from one platform to the next, be it a phone, tablet, desktop or home theater. In a demo at E3 earlier this year, SmartGlass pulled together the capabilities of Xbox 360, Kinect and Windows 8 tablets to show how it can take gaming to the next level. With Madden NFL 13 running on one screen, a user drew up plays on a Win8 tablet, which the game then executed on an HDTV. Pretty cool stuff.

4. Hardware Entry
With the introduction of the Surface tablet this year, Microsoft stole a page from Apple's playbook to become a vendor of integrated systems. It was a smart move. Software margins are declining and hardware is a commodity, but by bundling Microsoft can continue to ensure decent profits.

From a technical standpoint, CEO Steve Ballmer said it best at the company's shareholder meeting last month: "What we've said to ourselves now is that there is no boundary between hardware and software that we will let build up as a kind of innovation barrier." Up next? Watch for a Microsoft-branded smartphone.

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AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2013 | 11:10:07 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
Some of my clients have Philips CT scanners with SGI (IRIX) workstations under the hood. Still working like a charm.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2012 | 2:12:29 AM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
And some of us are still running IRIX...
sabakhan
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sabakhan,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2012 | 5:21:32 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2012 | 11:49:56 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
That probably is the "one" thing that MS did wrong here (and would be well advised to change in a fairly quick update). Give the user a choice on which UI to run on startup.

Once folks get used to the new UI on phone WP8, Surface, etc. then they can enable it on their laptops, desktops, and even Server OSs. The transition would go much smoother.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2012 | 11:44:50 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
Unfortunately, everyone does (and still continues) to miss the point of Windows 8 and the whole "Metro" thing. It is to unify the platforms and user experience across all Windows devices (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and server). Developer coding is unified and end users working with the software see the same UI (or a close facsimile).

Is it perfect? No, not yet. But, in the long run it will be a much better experience for everyone.

I get it. People don't like change and therefore want to compare (or denigrate in this case) something radically new with what they are used to.

Solution? Don't upgrade if you can't get over the change hurdle. There are still those holdouts running DOS and other legacy MS products...
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
12/21/2012 | 7:49:44 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
I agree, Windows 8 Live Tiles is an innovation, a worthy one, and not a me-too approach. But Microsoft's is trying to force too much on the user all at once. When you have the Windows franchise and huge installed base, you don't have to do that. It should have staged the introduction of the new interface as an option and let it grow within the customer base.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
12/21/2012 | 6:26:45 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
On a desktop given the choices I prefer Windows to the other OSs that I have worked with. This includes Ubuntu, and Solaris, OS x isn't even an option AppleG«÷s walled garden is more than I can take. On the servers I work with HP-UX, and more Solaris, I still prefer the Windows servers. Do I love Windows, no but I also don't hate it. It is a tool and as far as I am concerned the best tool available right now. Will that still be true when it is a choice between Windows 8 and some of the others; well that jury is still out. But right now Windows 7 versus the others, Windows 7 wins.
Mordock
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Mordock,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2012 | 6:10:36 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
You missed the biggest failure on Windows 8. And also the stupidest. No Start Button!
Nokuchikushi
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Nokuchikushi,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2012 | 7:13:51 AM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
I don't know anyone who craves Windows. Ballmer and Gates think people love Windows. The truth is most people tolerate it because they don't have a choice. They don't leave their mundane job where they have to work on a Windows computer all day and think, "Boy, I need to get me some more Windows." It just doesn't happen. People don't crave Windows, Ballmer. They just don't.
virshu
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virshu,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/20/2012 | 7:46:22 PM
re: Microsoft's Big Hits And Misses Of 2012
No question, Windows 8 is a major release. Like OS/2 was. Technically superior, developer friendly, and like OS/2 had Windows compatibility mode, it has Desktop Interface.

Sarcasm aside, I think Win8 is built on the wrong premise - that users need consistent interface between mobile and desktop. Apple obviously didn't think so - Mac and iPhone have very different interface. What this premise misses is that the activities on mobile are different from desktop. Starting with the ratio between reading and entering data. And Metro clearly isn't designed to be input-friendly
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