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Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Microsoft: 5 Must-Do's In 2015

Microsoft had a strong 2014. To continue its momentum, the company has some work to do next year.

Top 10 Social Media Fails Of 2014
Top 10 Social Media Fails Of 2014
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After a rocky 2013, Microsoft has been on the rise throughout much of 2014. New CEO Satya Nadella largely led the charge with his cross-platform, cloud-focused strategies, most of which were significant departures from predecessor Steve Ballmer's Windows-centric leadership. The positive progress is cause for optimism, but with legitimate challenges still looming, can Microsoft maintain its momentum into next year? Here are five things Microsoft must do in 2015.

1. Make sure Windows 10 is a hit.
After the fiasco of Windows 8 and 8.1, Microsoft needs Windows 10 to be a hit. The Windows 10 Technical Preview has been a promising start, showing not only useful features the OS will include, such as virtual desktops and the new Start menu, but also Microsoft's willingness to listen to customer feedback.

But the stakes are high. Compared to last year's disastrous PC sales, 2014 was somewhat stable. But Windows XP's end-of-life deadline to some extent inflated demand for new PCs; next year, Microsoft won't be able to expect this sort of bump. Meanwhile, Macs control more of the high-end PC market than ever, even though Microsoft managed a minor victory with decent Surface Pro 3 sales. Elsewhere, Chromebooks, Android tablets, and iPads have diminished the stature of the Windows brand, especially among schools and consumers.

[How did Microsoft get here? See Microsoft: 9 Best Moves Of 2014.]

Flashy, ultra-thin Windows laptops and 2-in-1s will hit store shelves in coming months. These stylish devices, with next-gen Intel processors, will try to beat Apple's MacBook at its own game and could advance Microsoft's cause -- but if Windows 10 doesn't deliver a compelling desktop experience and show why Microsoft's Modern apps and cloud services matter, the new machines will help only so much.

Microsoft promises Windows 10 will tie together not only tablets, phones, and PCs, but also Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the Xbox. It's a grand vision but also a very tall order. Windows 10 won't hit the market until the second half of 2015, but Microsoft will reveal more about the OS at an event on January 21. So far, Microsoft's Windows 10 disclosures have focused on desktop and enterprise features, but the company has promised in January to reveal more about Win 10's consumer side, presumably including versions for smartphones and tablets.

2. Make Windows Phone relevant.
According to research firm IDC, more Windows Phones shipped in 2014 than in 2013, but the OS's share of the market nevertheless decreased from 3.3% to 2.7%. In other words, Windows Phone grew, but not as fast as the overall market. Given that Microsoft and its partners have focused on the fastest growing smartphone segments -- inexpensive devices for emerging regions -- the relatively slow growth isn't encouraging.

Throughout 2014, Microsoft made several efforts to incentivize manufacturers to support Windows Phone, including eliminating license fees for the OS and relaxing hardware requirements so OEMs can easily re-use their Android designs for new Windows Phones. These attempts weren't fruitless; Microsoft announced last fall that 14 new OEMs had signed up for its smartphone OS. Even so, manufacturer buy-in for Windows Phone remains lukewarm at best. Carriers exacerbate the problem by slowly dribbling out updates to Windows Phone users. Microsoft itself has compounded matters, using the engineering talent it acquired from Nokia almost exclusively on unexciting, low-end devices. Microsoft might be waiting until Windows 10 is ready to make its big move with a flagship Lumia, but in the meantime, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have been extraordinarily successful in affluent markets, while Android devices have continued to gobble up market share everywhere else.

3. Clean up Patch Tuesday and show that a rapid-release update cadence can work.
With Windows 10, Microsoft plans to deploy updates in a constant stream, like it does with security patches, rather than in a large service packs released every few years. In an ideal world, the new update cadence

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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12/23/2014 | 2:42:24 PM
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