The past year saw some big wins, and big setbacks, for Microsoft. And then there's the special case of Windows 8.
Windows: Goofs And Gaffes
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1. Windows 8
Windows 8 is a hit, but it's also a miss? Yep, because right now, Windows 8 is all about potential. But that will be lost if Microsoft doesn't clean up a few things. For starters, the company needs to unify the user experience across Windows 8's dual (and dueling) Metro and desktop interfaces. For example, Internet Explorer 10 in Metro relies on a host of commands and touch gestures that don't function in the desktop version. That's just going to breed user frustration and confusion.
Microsoft also needs to give users the option to bypass Metro and boot to the more familiar Windows Explorer desktop if they like. No need to strong-arm users into Metro if that's not what they prefer.
2. Surface RT
Similarly, Microsoft's decision to get into hardware should be a hit long term, but its execution in the short term has been poor. By all accounts, Surface is not selling well -- and with good reason. With a starting price of $499, it's $200 more expensive than Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and priced on par with the new iPad.
[ Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely. ]
Microsoft needs to bite the bullet on price to establish Surface in the market. $399 would have been a good starting price, and we may yet see that. Microsoft also erred by withholding Surface Pro until after the holidays. Buyers who want a fully functioning Windows 8 tablet in time for Christmas can opt for one from Dell, Acer or a number of other OEMs. That's good for the PC makers, but it doesn't help the Surface franchise.
3. Windows Phone 8
Like Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 is technically impressive. It supports quad-core processors, and features scaled down and more customizable Live Tiles. But unlike Windows 8, it doesn't have a 400-million user installed base of previous-generation software on which to ride. It's out there on its own.
As a result, Windows Phone, including Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8, holds a market share less than 3.2%, according to ComScore. Unless those numbers pick up soon, the Windows Phone experiment will have to be considered a flop.
4. Bing Taste Test
In September, Microsoft stood up a website through which users could take a blind test to rank search results from Bing and Google. Microsoft claimed that users, who didn't know which results were from which search engine, preferred Bing almost 60%. InformationWeek invited readers to take the test and report back to us. The numbers weren't even close to Microsoft's claim. InformationWeek readers preferred Google's results by a ratio of almost 2 to 1. Sorry Bing.
What do you think were Microsoft's biggest hits and misses of 2012? Let me know in the comments section below.