Microsoft March Madness: 5 Stories To Watch

Recent developments around Windows 8, Windows Blue, Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft Office deserve your attention.
3. Windows 8 posts more growth but shows signs of flagging momentum.

Windows 8 has amassed 2.67% of the global market, according to February stats released by Web tracker Net Applications. The new share represents 18% month-over-month growth, which would be encouraging were it not the OS's smallest monthly uptick to date; Windows 8's share jumped 58% from November to December and 31.4% from December to January. It also trails Windows 7's progress through the same period.

On the bright side for Microsoft, Windows 7 and Windows XP still dominate the overall market. Windows 8 has also moved ahead of Mac OS X 10.8, the most popular version of Apple's OS. Windows Blue rumors have continued to heat up, with a new but not particularly revealing screenshot of Microsoft's alleged follow-up to Windows 8 surfacing over the weekend. While details are still scant, Windows Blue could provide Windows 8 the shot in the arm it needs to accelerate its progress.

4. Microsoft continues to build anticipation for new devices and form factors.

When Windows 8 failed to revitalize the PC market over the holidays, Microsoft officials suggested the culprit was a dearth of compelling hardware. This theory should be tested over coming months, as a new slate of touch-friendly Windows 8 devices will be hitting the market soon. Windows Blue is arguably a more significant test, as apps and UI have been a concern as well, but with Microsoft officials suggesting that new Surface devices could be in the pipeline, Richmond will have the chance to set the example of hardware-software cohesion.

New members of the Surface line could include a 7-inch model and a smartphone, but Microsoft is also evidently interested in more extreme form factors. Examples include a refined version of Panasonic's 20-inch, 4K Windows 8 tablet, which was first glimpsed as a prototype at CES, and, eventually, perhaps even wall-sized displays.

5. Microsoft could face stiff fines from the European Union.

According to a Reuters report, Microsoft could face hefty fines from the EU. Related to a decade-old antitrust case, the conflict involves Microsoft's failure to offer European customers a choice of browsers within Windows. A verdict is expected before the end of March.

The issue originally came to light over the summer, and Microsoft has previously blamed a technical glitch for its non-compliance. Given that the EU has fined Redmond more than $2.1 billion to date, however, the forthcoming penalty could be substantial.

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