2013: An exciting year ahead for Microsoft

2012 was an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft. From the launch of Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Windows RT, to the incredible buzz created by its Surface announcement, to the death of Zune, the birth of Xbox Music, the growth of SkyDrive and the genesis of Outlook.com, the entire year was packed full of news from Microsoft, as the company worked to bring all of its products and services together into a more unified, harmonious whole.

Even the old logo was consigned to the great Recycle Bin in the sky, as the once-disparate and disconnected portfolio of products was gradually updated into one big happy family of complementary brands.  

After such a busy and hectic year, you might be forgiven for believing that Microsoft will be putting its feet up for a bit, if only to catch its breath. But the good news for us is that there’s every indication that Microsoft will be keeping up the pace of development in 2013. While much of what is to come remains the stuff of conjecture, hearsay and – dare we say it – wishful thinking, there’s plenty that we’re confident we’ll see from Redmond over the next twelve months.

So this isn’t an exhaustive or complete list by any means, but here are five products that we’re looking forward to seeing from Microsoft in 2013:

 

It’s almost hard to believe, but more than six months have passed since Microsoft finally put an end to global speculation over the secretive press conference that it hastily arranged in Los Angeles, announcing its two Surface tablets. The announcement was significant: not only had Microsoft demonstrated that it could generate Apple-like buzz around its products, but it also marked the company’s first foray into building its own PC hardware – which some of its existing hardware partners didn’t like at all.

The company finally launched the Surface with Windows RT alongside Windows 8 in late October, but as stated back in June, we’ll have to wait until late January (“around 90 days later”) for the Surface Pro to go on sale with the full-fat Windows 8 Pro OS.

But Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it’s now a “devices and services” company, and speculation has been rife that work is already well advanced on a range of additional devices in the Surface family, including an Xbox tablet (see below). Only a few weeks ago, we reported on info from well-connected Microsoft watcher @MS_nerd, who had received details of a second-generation Surface RT, an updated Surface Pro with a larger display and new processor, and an entirely new ‘Surface Book’ model with a 14.6” display.

Lest we forget, too, the persistent rumours of Microsoft building its own ‘Surface Phone’ – although as Nokia, HTC and Samsung are still rolling out their Windows Phone 8 devices across the globe, with Huawei soon to formally announce its WP8 handsets, it seems unlikely that Microsoft would muddy the waters any time soon by launching its own smartphone hardware.

For now, the Surface Pro remains the only confirmed addition to the Surface range; the rest is merely wishful thinking at this stage. But if you fancy stretching your imagination a bit, Paul Thurrott wrote a great article last week suggesting a few Surface devices that Microsoft should consider launching in the next twelve months.

 

There is one addition to the Surface family that hasn’t been officially confirmed, but seems virtually certain to arrive, given information made available by various well-placed sources. We first heard about the Xbox Surface hours ahead of the Surface RT/Surface Pro announcement back in June, and more information emerged about the device in early November.

More than just an Xbox-flavoured version of the existing ARM-based Surface RT, the Xbox Surface would be an entirely new piece of hardware. The 7-inch tablet is said to have a HD (720p) display and ARM processor, running on a customised Windows kernel, and offering a user experience focused on gaming and the new Xbox Music and Video services that replaced Zune.

Those services – and many others like it, including Netflix, Lovefilm, BBC iPlayer, Hulu Plus and HBO GO, among many others – are increasing in popularity on the Xbox 360. Indeed, many consumers are using their console as a media player more than ever before, with some even buying additional Xboxes specifically to fulfil that role around the home. It’s no surprise then that reports persist suggesting that Microsoft is working on an Xbox-branded set-top box dedicated to audio and video playback.

Stripped of the hardcore gaming abilities of the full Xbox console, the ‘Xbox TV’ device is said to run “the core components of Windows 8”, but with a low-power chipset offering quick-boot abilities and access to TV, video and entertainment services and apps. It’s also believed that the device will offer “casual gaming” abilities, but more intensive titles such as those from the Halo or Call Of Duty franchises would still require the more capable and fully featured Xbox console.

Neither of these devices has yet been confirmed or even acknowledged publicly by Microsoft, but there’s plenty of weight behind the rumours that continue to swirl around them, and we’re confident that we’ll hear more about them by the middle of the year, before they go on sale ahead of the holiday season.

 

The Xbox 360 is no spring chicken by any means, yet it’s still managed to outsell its Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii rivals almost every month for the last two years, even outselling the brand new Wii U in the US during Thanksgiving week. But the 360’s days are numbered, and it’s something of a poorly kept secret that Microsoft is well advanced on development of its replacement.

Often referred to as the ‘Xbox 720’ – though more formally known by its internal development codename, ‘Durango’ – the next Xbox is expected to arrive ahead of the 2013 holiday season. We understand that Microsoft will announce the new console (and possibly also the Xbox Surface and Xbox TV) at a standalone event – similar to the Surface announcement in LA last June – ahead of E3 in June, where more details will be made available, but this is of course subject to change in the coming months.

A few weeks ago, Xbox World magazine claimed to have the scoop on various details of the new console, stating that it will introduce second-generation Kinect capabilities, 3D sound, Blu-Ray, and a case fashioned from the same VaporMG magnesium alloy used on Microsoft's own Surface tablets.

We’ll have to wait and see just how much of that pans out – but either way, we’re confident that the new Xbox will be absolutely mighty. We can’t wait.

 

Windows 8 only launched two months ago, but attention is already turning to what comes next. While there have already been incremental updates to the OS, the first major update to Windows 8 is expected in the middle of next year. Known by its internal codename, ‘Blue’, it’s said to be more than just an OS update, marking a major step towards a standardised annual update cycle across both Windows and Windows Phone.

For Windows 8, Blue will introduce new user interface improvements; we at Neowin have heard from knowledgeable sources that this will include broader customisation options, including new colour and background choices and more flexible tile sizes and configurations on the Start screen. Beyond these relatively superficial changes, Blue will usher in more substantial platform changes, which will also see the release of a new SDK, with developers being encouraged to create apps that take advantage of the new capabilities that the update will bring.

Perhaps the most interesting development is that Blue will introduce optimisations allowing the launch of smaller Windows tablets. First-generation Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets are all larger than 10 inches, but with Blue, manufacturers will be able to offer devices with smaller displays, down to 7 inches, allowing the platform to compete more effectively with similarly sized devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire range and Apple's iPad mini.

The update is expected to be made available to existing users at low-cost, although there is some speculation that it may even be offered free of charge, as Microsoft is said to be keen to ensure that Blue is “the next OS that everyone installs”.  

 

Windows Phone 8 users are starting to see the first OS update, codename ‘Portico’, being rolled out to devices, albeit not quite as quickly as many had hoped. Portico includes a range of relatively minor enhancements and bug-fixes, but a more substantial OS update is expected later in the year. Known as ‘Apollo Plus’ (a reference to the 'Apollo' codename given to Windows Phone 8 while in development), little is known about what it might include, and internet speculation at this stage appears more fanciful than well-informed.

It’s expected to be detailed by Microsoft in the first quarter of 2013, and The Verge claims that it will be officially announced at Mobile World Congress in late February.

But for those who haven’t yet been able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8, the long wait for an update for Windows Phone 7.5 ('Mango') continues. Microsoft disappointed its existing user base back in June when it confirmed that Windows Phone 7.x devices could not be upgraded to WP8, but promised that it would continue to actively support the platform, by delivering a Windows Phone 7.8 update instead. After months of silence, the company finally spoke up on 7.8 just a few weeks ago, detailing a fairly modest list of enhancements that the update would bring.

Microsoft has still been frustratingly vague over when 7.8 will be made available, promising only that it will arrive in “early 2013”, and the frustrations are even greater for some users – such as owners of Dell and LG Windows Phones – who won’t see the update at all.

 


After such an exciting 2012, Microsoft has set the bar pretty high and will have to work hard to top its achievements over the last twelve months. But even at this stage, it’s clear that the company has plenty of exciting products and enhancements in the pipeline, and there's still plenty to come that hasn't even been hinted at above - from the full launch of Office 2013 to the opening of more Microsoft Stores (including one in London) to all the stuff we don't even know about (or can't talk about!) yet.

2013 looks set to be another phenomenal year for Microsoft, and we can't wait to see all that they have to offer. We hope you’ll keep returning to Neowin over the year ahead to share it all with us.

A very happy new year to you all!


Xbox Next image via geeky-gadgets.com; Microsoft Store and Windows Phone 'snowflakes' imagery via Microsoft

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The real question is - what cherished product will MS kill in 2013 due to internal politics, and abandon and alienate a loyal user base. They have a long history of doing so ever since the Win 8 'unification started'.

WHS - killed
Zune - killed
Live Mesh - killed

Every single one of these was a great product, both technically and for users. There are no replacements from MS, the substitutes like Skydrive are poor.

I love these threads, lmao. Bring on the crapple blows and laggdroid sux comments. Anyway, im very happy as a MS fan I look forward to buying all there new hardware just one thing though...
BRING BACK ZUNE YOU ****HEADS OR FIX YOUR ALLEYWAY OF AN ABORTION YOU CALL XBOX MUSIC.

Thank you and happy holidays.

Damn good stuff coming. Seems MS have found a second wind and are coming back at us with a great load of services and devices all nicely melded together.

A few years back i thought it was going to be Google that bought this all on but MS have really kicked them back in their place.

2013, the year i finally transfer away from Gmail.

You win8 haters make me laugh,you know nothing
I am a desktop user mainly games,music,video entertainment..etc
I always put win8 down as i loved win7,i don't have a touch screen,installed win8,used for 2 days,hated it ) so i went back to win7 "big mistake" as i missed win8's,speed,apps and not being left behind the tech,i even used startisback for 1 month but now i have uninstalled it as win8 lets you do things faster than win7,you just have to get used to it,just think,is it esier to get a program with two clicks or having to go to start,scroll through the things you don't use just to get?
I don't have any icons on my desktop,i have 5 pinned to taskbar that i use frequently,my other programs i use are two clicks away,start screen ) witch i really love now and could not do without.
Anyway,just my thoughts on why you haters make me laugh )


Have fun

So Windows 8 installs faster (this will be done once a year?)
Starts faster, this will be done once a day? and it will save 10 sec, ok
Windows 8 has an ugly UI, and I will see it for thousands of seconds, no thanks

I installed Windows 8, uninstalled it, installed it, used it, removed it, installed it, used it for 2 months, and decided never to use it again, went back to 7 for good this time, if they put back the glass interface and solve the Explorer continues crashing, let me know.

I can see bashing OS for personal reasons but I have never had one crash with windows 8 or IE10. I don't even have these phantom issues with using it with a mouse and am still trying to figure out the difficulty in using windows 8 without a touchscreen.

john.smith_2084 said
Windows 8 has an ugly UI
Well that's where you're wrong.

Windows 8 brings several improvements such as security, stability, performance, boot/shutdown times, etc.

lol another opportunity for you to try and shoot someones opinion down as if it were a debatable factoid.

He thinks its ugly, I think its ugly, you don't. None of us are right or wrong, we just have better taste than you .

gideonidoru said
we just have better taste than you .
Hmm, not really, but keep telling yourself that. And the design part is purely an opinion, but the improvements are all facts so if you don't want to use it because of the design even though it is better than Windows 7, then that's your choice; I like using things that are better.

Now that Microsoft has pandered to the consumer tablet element with Windows-8; will Microsoft be doing something for the business community? Failing that, there is Windows-7 to give Microsoft a few more years to do the right thing.

Windows Nashville and the previous 2 posts hit it on the head. I know this site is called "neoWIN" and not "neo-objectiveTechNews" but this is one of the biggest puff-ridden fanboy posts, masquerading as an article, I've read.

In 2012: MS had a lot of products, a lot of challenges, and showed signs of plotting a new course for the corporation in 2013. Windows Phone 8 sold better than expected. Windows 8 was half-baked and poorly received while Surface fell flat. Xbox continued to dominate, but Xbox music has arguably damaged the brand due to its missteps. All major tech firms had successes and failures this year, but Microsoft had an exceptionally difficult year.

I hope 2013 brings a new CEO (lets try for a product guy, not a sales guy this time though ok?); and more executive shakeups.

gideonidoru said
Windows 8 was half-baked and poorly received
How was Windows 8 half-baked? Seriously. You should do your research before making a fool out of yourself like that..

So, you think that an OS that's more secure, stable, faster in performance, and boot/shuts down faster is half-baked..

First, when one offers their opinion it is not something that is researched. Perhaps know the meaning of words before you attempt to show someone a fool.

Second, it is half baked because the new Touch UI isnt pervasive throughout the whole OS. The modal, touch friendly settings and options are a small subset of those in the OS. Worse, as a desktop user I have to hop back and forth between, in my opinion (since clearly you cant pick that up on your own), ugly modal touch UIs and traditional UIs. The settings we commonly adjust are more buried than ever before. Multitasking is a joke when im forced to use some modal UIs and some traditional UIs. Why would a productivity center like the desktop force users into one full screen app for something like checking for updates & installing them?

To me this is why its half baked. There is no common language throughout the whole OS, no expectation of behaviors and consistency in design.

You listed some nice new features, but nothing that shows it isnt half-baked. Nice try at trolling though.

dtourond said,
How was Windows 8 half-baked? Seriously. You should do your research before making a fool out of yourself like that..

So, you think that an OS that's more secure, stable, faster in performance, and boot/shuts down faster is half-baked..

gideonidoru said
First, when one offers their opinion it is not something that is researched.
Not all the time, but sometimes it is good to have an opinion that's backed with research and facts.. It helps the argument a lot.

Windows 8 is not half-baked and even though that may be your opinion, I can debunk immediately that with facts.

If you're going to say something like that about a product it's good to be able to back up your claims. The difference here is that I can and you can't..

gideonidoru said
It is half baked because the new Touch UI isnt pervasive throughout the whole OS
See, that right there is just an opinion..

gideonidoru said
Multitasking is a joke when im forced to use some modal UIs and some traditional UIs.
What do you mean "some modal UI's". Windows 8 has TWO main UI's. It has the Desktop and the Modern UI.

gideonidoru said
You listed some nice new features, but nothing that shows it isnt half-baked. Nice try at trolling though.
So, you don't think that all of those improvements make it a good upgrade. Well, if you want to an inferior OS, that's fine. I know that using something that's better is the more logical way to go and if you think that me proving you wrong is trolling, then you don't know the definition of trolling is...

gideonidoru said
Clearly you don't know the simple concepts like what an opinion is
Actually I do.

And Windows 8 does offer two UX's, mobile and Desktop.

better luck next troll.
I find that funny since you don't know the definition of a troll... This nonsense of your keeps me amused

As long as MS integrates it's services more and more and also finally starts to expand them to more markets (Xbox music in more countries please) then all will be well.

Yeesh ... what a puff piece. Did you guys just copy a Microsoft press release verbatim?

Yes, 2012 must have been "an incredibly exciting year" for Microsoft. It's not every year that a company sees a heavily hyped new version (Windows 8) of their flagship product end up selling even more poorly than the previous worst iteration (Vista) of that product. Quite an achievement.

I'm looking forward to MS doubling down on stupid in 2013 with Windows Blue.

Windows 8 is not selling at a worse rate than Vista. MS sold an average of 10M Vista licenses per month, while the PC industry was selling machines at a rate of 20M units per month. Microsoft sold 40M licenses after launch, and adoption according to Statcounter is just about at 3%, so these license sales to OEMs are translating to actual usage. As a portion of Windows machines only, it's sitting at about 3.25% as of yesterday.

According to statcounter, at its current rate, Windows 8 share is growing 4x faster than iPad and OSX combined. More people use Windows 8 than use OSX 10.4, 10.5,10.6 or 10.7. Next month it will be surpassing OSX 10.8, and shortly thereafter all of OSX combined. Even Windows 7 is losing market share. Statcounter has Windows 7 share at a 6 month low, and share has been trending downward since Windows 8 launched.

Brony said
Windows 8 is not fighting against OSX but against Windows 7, and windows 7 is taking the lead.
Duh... Of course Windows 7 will take the lead for a while. It's been around for awhile and people have gotten used to it. Plus, Windows 8 has a lot of changes so it'll take time for people to understand its true potential.

Major Plonquer said,
With Windows 8, it took Microsoft 30 days to reach the same market penetration it took Apple 30 years to achieve with Macintosh.

What a failure!

Who's more profitable?

in 2013:
Windows 8 is a failed OS, they will keep blaming a thing after a thing until it is clear that the problem is Windows 8 itself.

Steve Ballmer out, Green out, new guy in.

Windows 8 fixes in 2013 but not big, Windows restart and maybe a new Windows in 2015

option 2 for 2013

Windows blue with more stupidity over Windows 8 (everything you did not wish for)

More people leaving the Microsoft platform

Microsoft blaming it on hardware, software, the weather, the economy, but never on Windows

Windows 8 R2 will have a pink interface with unicorns

john.smith_2084 said,
in 2013:
Windows 8 is a failed OS, they will keep blaming a thing after a thing until it is clear that the problem is Windows 8 itself.

Steve Ballmer out, Green out, new guy in.

Windows 8 fixes in 2013 but not big, Windows restart and maybe a new Windows in 2015

I agree that windows 8 needs work. But I will not agree that it will never go anywhere. We are heading into a new era of technology - of which will have touchscreens. Which is why it was imperative that MS created a touch friendly UI.

Windows 8 could use a little more help from the design department - for customizations and personalization. I don't mind the live tiles, but being able to organize it more and make it seem less like a cluttered mess would be nice.

Hopefully Windows Blue addresses some severe problems with the W8 start screen.

also, I think we should all critically think if it was a smart move for Microsoft to merge two UI's together. Would it have been better to just make a sole touch UI?
Personally i'm neutral, with devices like tablets I see it very useful to switch between productivity and usability.

To me It seems like w8 is like the Kinect UI and normal UI in the previous xbox 360 UI, then it was updated and was much improved.

A "sole touch UI?" That may be fine for the beeboppers with tablets who like to do the "show and tell" routine with others. But, and this is a big BUT...how does touch work in a traditional office setting where productivity and content creation is the major focus of the IT department? It doesn't.

TsarNikky said,
A "sole touch UI?" That may be fine for the beeboppers with tablets who like to do the "show and tell" routine with others. But, and this is a big BUT...how does touch work in a traditional office setting where productivity and content creation is the major focus of the IT department? It doesn't.

Then don't use touch equipment. Windows 8 still works with traditional hardware.

TsarNikky said,
A "sole touch UI?" That may be fine for the beeboppers with tablets who like to do the "show and tell" routine with others. But, and this is a big BUT...how does touch work in a traditional office setting where productivity and content creation is the major focus of the IT department? It doesn't.

well, im personally think that a few years down the line they will remove the desktop completely (if they can fix up many, many productivity issues in touch UI)

But, the reason I have never bought a tablet before is because it would only be a bigger phone. With w8 I have actually looked into it, hence why I think MS is going in the right direction.

I'm curious to see how well they pull off Office for iOS. I predict it will mostly just be a set of "readers" with very low productivity value. But the iPad is pretty low productivity anyway...

My 2013 wish list which will never come true.

1 Bring back TMG it was an awesome product and at 5000$ a socket im sure it made a profit.
2 Overhaul the server mmc snapins and replace them with server manager DHCP DNS etc.
3 Keep updating the video and music applications more support for tagged mp4 video collections
4 Native VPN support in windows phone even if its just ppp over IPsec
5 Group policy and RSAT for Windows RT

TPreston said,
3 Keep updating the video and music applications more support for tagged mp4 video collections

As long as we're wishing for things that will never come true: I'd like to see native support for the Apple Lossless Audio Codec in Windows Blue.

So...why is it that the iPod can exist and nobody can compete? I loved my Zune 80GB, but you are right... I have a smartphone now and have no use for an iPod.

But my step-kids have iPods. Seems like the biggest thing competing against iPod for kids is Kindle Fire.

The iPod already has an audience. If Microsoft wanted to launch a Zune HD successor, it'd likely need a new name given the brand's image, and that would be a massive uphill battle. No company wants to put money in a declining market; it just doesn't make sense.

I love my Zune HD -- best PMP I've ever owned -- but it's not going to happen, unfortunately.

Anthony Tosie said,
The iPod already has an audience. If Microsoft wanted to launch a Zune HD successor, it'd likely need a new name given the brand's image, and that would be a massive uphill battle. No company wants to put money in a declining market; it just doesn't make sense.

I love my Zune HD -- best PMP I've ever owned -- but it's not going to happen, unfortunately.


I don't think Zune suffers much from branding...

Shadrack said,

I don't think Zune suffers much from branding...

Indeed it does not. It's funny, they said that Zune was confusing to consumers as it was both hardware and software offerings.

Then they go ahead, get rid of zune, and introduce Xbox music - xbox which I believe is known as a hardware device (gaming). They just simply gave up on zune.

Ironically, Zune spawned Metro... They discontinued the father of Metro - of which was truly a unique experience.

Widows phone on the other hand is a mess, im a huge fan, but you look at the home screen and it is just cluttered, unorganized, un-personable. I like the live tiles but they need to really re-think how they are displayed, the market share says this alone.

I say having multiple "home screens" with the live tiles more spread out, background choices, the clock being bigger in the upper right, a "taskbar" like addition at the bottom, and just for added comfort a locked "home screen" that has more personal information/things that can only be accessed there. Windows Phone can be so much better - but Microsoft is just moving like molasses with innovation.

Here's to 2013! Happy new years guys.

mad_apo said,
Microsoft Is ON. Good news for Microsoft and customers. apple and google SUCKS.

You are such a mature adult.

I don't think you'll see a surface phone anytime soon. And if we do see one it won't be a maxed out highend device either I bet. They'll leave that area to their partners like Nokia and HTC etc.

If you look at the "Future" video Microsoft released mid-2012 you'll see their vision of a phone where the screen can be undocked from the handset - one part held to the ear while the other held in the left hand and sporting a camera, an innovative approach to video phone. The two parts "click" together just like the Surface tablets. Given how Microsoft is pushing the "click" when the two parts come together, could this be a preview of the Surface Phone?

No troll WE'RE THE STOOOONE PROTECTORS! Our stones of power glow!

Ahem, anyway is the Xbox really gonna be X shape like in that photo?

That silver X is the very first "demo" unit MS showed for the first Xbox back in 2000 or something. It was just for a fancy display unit.