Editorial

Microsoft's future: part one

A new hope

The year 2009 has been an important one for Microsoft. Redemption is in reach again, after taking hits from increasingly hostile publicity, against its mishandled operating system Windows Vista; several corporate snafus also shone a bad light on their Redmond campus. Supposedly, the new decade bears hope of glory for Microsoft.

One big hurdle Microsoft faces still is inconsistency.

The Windows platform is dotted by inconsistent UI design, but also corporate decisions have caused much customer confusion. While Vista still had lot of old XP icons — some designers at Microsoft were too lazy or too complacent — as well as very ill-placed 'back' arrows in some applications such as the Windows DVD maker, or a necessary update to Internet Explorer that came too late. However, not merely the veneer of unassailability cracked; beneath it all, the Redmond leviathan feels the abundant jabs from nimble, incessant competitors.

Apple has become the incumbent leader on the music player market. Microsoft has followed suit with the Zune platform, but it hasn't really become a great success. Although a competent player, the Zune is only available in the U.S., with no international release in sight. That's an illogical decision, to say the least. It would certainly be much more successful in Europe, where the iPod is not the sole forerunner.

Another business sector where Microsoft seems to have a hard time gaining a foothold is smartphones. Windows Mobile has, so far, not been regarded as the companion to its desktop variant. Mostly it's touted as a compromised, overly simplified operating environment that only shares its name with the world's most-used desktop system. Maybe rightly so, but in any case, Microsoft has proven that it can develop quality products. Microsoft has some catching-up to do, in point of fact. Windows Mobile 7 promises to be that savior, just like Windows 7 turned out to be for the PC. First screenshots of its interface show a much more streamlined and consistent UI, which will definitely make it more user-friendly. It's also a drawback that Microsoft deploys its mobile OS on generic phones. Apple has a stranglehold over its iPhone and the apps that can be sold for use on it. Blackberry is another competitor that keeps much of the enterprise sector closed. Most of the road-warriors, ever in the air, use Blackberries to communicate with their office. It's a monopoly Microsoft aims to break.

Yet Steve Ballmer doesn't stand idle. Microsoft is undergoing a paradigm shift, with increasingly better and more astute quality control in its software releases. Windows 7 has received favorable reviews, and also suffers from fewer bugs than did Vista three years ago. The previous iteration of everybody's favorite OS has been the bane of Redmond, since the beginning of its troublesome development. Even I recall numerous BSOD when I first installed it.

Microsoft is a technology mongrel, and will never lose that status. Its tentacles are spread too widely. Yet no leviathan is invincible; it didn't take a prince in shining armor to wound it, but simply an economic crisis. As President Kennedy said in a speech on April 12th, 1959, though, "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity." Steve Ballmer takes a rather reserved stance, when asked how it might be affecting Microsoft. For him, it's a different kind of recession, one that will reset the economy. Likewise, Microsoft is doing a lot of soul-searching.

There are three sectors Microsoft hopes to expand: cloud computing, enterprise computing and mobile computing. On top of that they are looking to grow ad revenue on Bing, and of course there is the Xbox 360 too. So, really, Microsoft has a strong presence in several key branches. At this year's D7 he told Walt Mossberg that the company is still investing aggressively in R&D. "We're investing in areas where there is room for improvement." Interesting euphemism, notes Mossberg. At that occasion Ballmer also gave a first look at the then-new Bing search engine. This is an area where Microsoft hopes to excel, but clearly not outdoing Google — who still is the singular king of the hill.

Some of that 'aggressive investment' went into seemingly irrelevant details such as the bootscreen and default background of Windows 7. There are two very informative videos on Channel 9, which illuminate the design process behind the look of Windows 7. What comes across very prominently is that the designers wanted something expansive and airy. They wanted to convey a sense of openness and possibility. This might sound inviting, when you're sitting in a cubicle farm, gazing time as it progresses toward your late-afternoon release. It means Microsoft finally realized that even a business-oriented product needs some culture; good taste has no relation to whether you work in a creative or industrial branch. Now it's crucial not to understand culture as being colorful, open-minded and outlandish. The candy-flavored XP seems to have sprung from a too simplistic mindset — even in the professional version it looked horrendously misplaced in an office environment. However, that seems to have been the thinking of the time, because even Mac OS X 10.0 was littered with kindergarten icons. Both systems have since matured.

There is something Microsoft is learning from its recent corporate history: deciding one's path to glory is paramount. Knowing how to get there is primordial wisdom — whoever is better than the competition, will triumph. This applies as much to a Fortune 500 company, as it does to a smaller technology firm. Yet, there are many ways to win. To be cultivated is one way, and that's the way Microsoft has chosen.

Read in the next part where this might lead the Redmond giant.

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BigBoobLover said,
Microsoft's biggest problem in revamping the UI for Windows Mobile to make it completely touch friendly is the fact that they have WAY too many old apps around that simply were never designed to be used with anything other than a stylus. At some point, they will HAVE to give up some backwards compatibility to make things better for the future (something that they seem to fail to comprehend).

Check out the 6.5.3 builds - it's amazing what you can do buy altering the shell and it's controls - all my apps that ran before still do, but now with finger friendly buttons etc

DomZ said,

1. When the first iPhone was released, it added multi touch, full (proper) web browsing on a mobile phone, visual voicemail - and since then its added the App Store. Yeh all the iPhone has/had is "just a better UI" than everything else. Cmon, be realistic here.


Err.. even though Microsoft's surface project had been toying with multitouch for a while before the iPhone, and many other phones already had app stores?

omnicoder said,

Err.. even though Microsoft's surface project had been toying with multitouch for a while before the iPhone, and many other phones already had app stores?

Toying with mulit-touch and mentioning app stores that had nothing in them is a weak argument at best. Apple brought a usable and full featured multi-touch device and app store to market in a way that spoke to consumers. They executed while MS "toyed".

1. When the first iPhone was released, it added multi touch, full (proper) web browsing on a mobile phone, visual voicemail - and since then its added the App Store. Yeh all the iPhone has/had is "just a better UI" than everything else. Cmon, be realistic here.


- Opera had full proper web browsing well before safari, and supported flash soon after. Safari still doesn't support flash.
- Skyfire supports flash, quicktime, and silverlight.
- Visual voicemail was around before apple brought about the iphone.
- Apple didn't invent an application store, they existed before the iPhone.

So the only thing "new," to a phone anyways, was multitouch.

Toying with mulit-touch


How exactly did Microsoft Surface "toy" with multitouch? They executed it, before the iPhone did. Pinch zoom etc were all on microsoft surface before the iphone came out.

/- Razorfold said,
So the only thing "new," to a phone anyways, was multitouch.

How exactly did Microsoft Surface "toy" with multitouch? They executed it, before the iPhone did. Pinch zoom etc were all on microsoft surface before the iphone came out.

And what Windows based SmartPhone can I get it on? Right, thanks.

bob_c_b said,


And what Windows based SmartPhone can I get it on? Right, thanks.


Microsoft surface isn't a smartphone and I didn't know multitouch could only be used on phones. And did you miss the part where I said the only thing the iphone had that was new to a phone was multitouch? I mean you sure did copy it.

All winmo 7 phones will be multitouch, as for right now the touch hd2.

Microsoft will be defeated in the mobile world it's far to late to stop that now, in the online world it'll be a slower more gradual death but in the operating system market they'll be strong for a few more years yet.

thealexweb said,
Microsoft will be defeated in the mobile world it's far to late to stop that now, in the online world it'll be a slower more gradual death but in the operating system market they'll be strong for a few more years yet.

It's hardly too late for MS to come back and take a piece of anything they want, why do people post stuff like this?

Your talking crap out of your rear end. MS won't be defeated in the mobile or online "world/s". They'd just face strong competition and that's what we need as consumers to obtain the "best" product that suits our needs. Microsoft probably will never be top dog with their phone OS's but they will always still be there.

bob_c_b said,
It's hardly too late for MS to come back and take a piece of anything they want, why do people post stuff like this?

Like what? What's a new market that MS isn't competing in yet? MS has FAILED in every new market except the console market, where it has a marginal victory over the PS3.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows

toadeater said,
Like what? What's a new market that MS isn't competing in yet? MS has FAILED in every new market except the console market, where it has a marginal victory over the PS3.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows



This is just a fail comment... The Zune HD is far from a fail, maybe in popularity, but the MP3 player market is declining anyway. People want more integrated devices now, e.g. MP3 player with their phones.

Bing isn't a fail yet, and still has quite a few surprises left in store. Have you not tried the new Bing Maps Beta? That is simply amazing.

Which leads me onto the next point, Silverlight, in every aspect it better then Flash. Just again, not as popular. But it's worth is being shown and it is becoming more popular.

Virtualization, well, Hyper-V is awesome for creating a full virtulized environment.

PC Gaming - fail? What on earth are you talking about? Windows is pretty much the only platform you can do PC Gaming on without using a virtualized environment. This = win to me.

Mobile - fail? Maybe, but i'm throughly looking forward to Win Mob 7.

toadeater said,
Like what? What's a new market that MS isn't competing in yet? MS has FAILED in every new market except the console market, where it has a marginal victory over the PS3.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows
How high were you when you made that comment?

ElectronicSoul said,
How high were you when you made that comment?

+1

Quite possibly the most ill thought out comment I have seen on Neowin.

hynesy said,

+1

Quite possibly the most ill thought out comment I have seen on Neowin.


Interestingly enough, I use Mono/.Net to develop apps on my Mac Pro for Apple's iPhone, and run Silverlight via WordPress on my OS X based G4 server so I can have video and audio playlists on my website...so although I am an Apple guy through and through, Microsoft does make some good technology and I, for one, wouldn't wish them to go away.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows


Music players - So the Zune HD is crap? Really.
Search Engine - Bing is actually quite a good product, and some of its features like the maps is simply amazing
Social networking - Because MSN messenger isn't the most popular IM protocol. Yes IM is a part of social networking.
Web hosting - Microsoft doesn't explicitly host stuff for you, unless you use Office Live. And windows server is a dam good product.
Virtualization - Hyper-V? Ever used it?
Mobile - Winmo is a good product.
PC Gaming - Considering directx is used in the majority of games, and windows is the most popular gaming platform. I hardly consider this a fail. Plus Microsoft Game Studios has made/published some of the most popular games - Age of empires, Microsoft Flight Simulator
Browsers - Soon to fail? Considering Ie8 was a massive improvement, and Ie9 is looking dam dam good, I would say they failed at it and now are catching up very fast.
Silverlight - Does everything flash does, only better.
.NET - Fail on everything but Windows...maybe because .NET was designed to be used on Windows, your comment doesn't even make sense.

Go back under your rock.

toadeater said,
Like what? What's a new market that MS isn't competing in yet? MS has FAILED in every new market except the console market, where it has a marginal victory over the PS3.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows

This is a pretty ill informed post.

toadeater said,
Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows

Music players - No, you are misinformed. Zune HD is still early. You can't base judgment on a NEW product.
Search engines - What? Bing is improving month over month, and you call it a fail? Ya sorry it didn't soak up 80% of the market on opening day.
Social networking - Social network? Windows Live Profiles? third-party social networks are much easier to come by anyways.
Web hosting - what webhosting?
Virtualization - what virtualization?
Mobile - You mean, Windows Mobile? One of the top Smartphone OS...
PC gaming - What about console gaming? I noticed you left that out..
Browsers - IE9 is around the corner, and is much improved. IE STILL has the top spot in market share.
Silverlight - Silverlight is actually amazing, regardless of what you believe.
.NET - I'm not sure how much experience you have with .NET, but it has greatly improved in the last version.

Reading what you wrote, giving absolutely NO facts to back up your "failings", I know that you are definitely against all things Microsoft, and probably use their operating system, but continue to complain about something you couldn't live without.

Yeah, I figured some of you would jump on me for saying that. Ofcourse I meant based on popularity. That's what matters in business right? Sales, marketshare, and influence? Not to mention profit.

The MS products/services I mentioned fail in either profitability, or marketshare compared to their competitors.

As for PC gaming, what does DirectX have to do with anything? I am obviously referring to PC games sales. What was the last successful PC-only, PC-centric game MS published, or anyone published? MS also completely screwed up Games For Windows Live. Ever heard of STEAM?

IE9... how is that going to change anything? I can say Firefox 4, Chrome 2, or whatever. The fact is that IE marketshare is declining.

Pretty much every newish virtualization product by ms requires Intel VTx, which my CPU can't do, I'm sure hyper-v and windows virtual pc are great, but way to cut a load of us out! Although this is partly Intel's fault as well.

toadeater said,
Like what? What's a new market that MS isn't competing in yet? MS has FAILED in every new market except the console market, where it has a marginal victory over the PS3.

Music players - fail
Search engines - fail
Social networking - fail
Web hosting - fail
Virtualization - fail
Mobile - fail
PC gaming - fail
Browsers - soon to fail
Silverlight - fail
.NET - fail on everything but Windows

I think this a little harsh, but in the end, where is Microsoft's profit centres, that allow them to dabble in all these other loss making adventures. With all the cash Microsoft has / had, the only two cash cow products (Windows PC O/S and Office) seem to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. A lot of what Microsoft touches seems to turns a nasty brown colour. I do use the free Core version of Hyper-V though! Bargain!

Apple the incumbent leader in the smartphone market? - lol. I don't think so. In the US, it is still second (to RIM), and worldwide it is 3rd.

Microsoft finding it hard to gain a "foothold" in the smartphone market?? - I would say 3rd position (in the US, number 2 in other parts of the world) is a fairly good foothold, which will surely increase dramatically with WinMo 7.

What planet are you living on, and where are you getting your "facts"?

I stand corrected. I did not mean to include the smartphone market in the first sentence. It's meant to say "Apple is the incumbent leader on the music player market."

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