Editorial

Editorial: Will 2013 be Microsoft's biggest year ever?

There's no doubt that Microsoft, after a slow couple of years, has now exploded in 2012. The launch of Windows 8 was expected to be a big deal, but until June of 2012 no one expected Microsoft to enter the PC hardware business head first with the Surface tablet. The launch of both products in late October has put a huge spotlight on the company for the first time in a long time.

Yet, 2012 may just be the prelude to what Microsoft has planned for 2013. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has already announced that the company has plans to launch even more hardware products. The upshot of all of this is that 2013 could be a year with multiple product launches across all of the company's brands and divisions that could make 2012's announcements seem almost tiny by comparison.

Let's take a look at what 2013 might bring for Microsoft, based on already announced plans as well as rumors and our own speculation:

Surface Windows 8 Pro

Microsoft has already announced its plans to launch a version of its own home grown Surface tablet that will run on Windows 8 Pro and an Intel processor. Microsoft has said it will launch about 90 days after the release of the Windows RT version of Surface, which means that, barring delays, it should be on its way sometime in late January.

We think the Surface for Windows 8 Pro could be an even bigger deal for Microsoft than the Surface for Windows RT. The company has already seen some success with that version in terms of sales, and that's with an operating system that can't run legacy Windows programs. There is evidence that many consumers, as well as large businesses, are waiting for the Windows 8 Pro-Intel version of Surface and we think that Microsoft will be hard pressed to keep up with the demand when it finally comes out. We hope they make enough of them to go around.

Office 2013 launch

Microsoft has already reached the RTM stage for Office 2013, which is perhaps the company's biggest software product besides Windows. The Windows 8 and Windows 7 versions should be commercially available very soon, perhaps as soon as late January. However, the even more exciting rumor is that Office could make its way to Android and iOS later in 2013.

While companies such as OnLive offer a way to access Office software on iOS and Android products via a streaming method from a cloud server, the truth is that most users would love to see a version of Office running natively on those mobile operating systems.  Other productivity software products have failed to be as popular as Office and its launch on iOS and Android could be even bigger than the Windows launch for Microsoft in terms of sales.

Surface phone

If you believe the rumors, Microsoft is already testing its own Windows Phone design. We think that it is inevitable that the company will branch out and simply make its own smartphone hardware product. It has certainly learned quite a bit in the last couple of years from smartphone makers, particularly Nokia and HTC, which have supported Windows Phone since it launched in 2010.

We think that Microsoft will indeed launch a "Surface" smartphone product for mid-to-late 2013. However, entering this market will be even tougher than the company's move into the PC hardware business. Hopefully it will learn some lessons from the Surface tablet launch and put that experience into its smartphone.

Xbox Surface gaming tablet

The portable gaming industry has changed a lot in just a few years. Dedicated gaming consoles such as Nintendo's 3DS and Sony's new PS Vita seem to have fallen a little bit out of favor as smartphones have become more popular as gaming devices.

That's why it's a little odd to hear rumors that Microsoft is aiming to launch a seven inch tablet, called the Xbox Surface, that's being made specifically for gaming. The rumors claim that it will have a custom Windows OS, rather than Windows 8 or Windows RT. It's also rumored that this new tablet could be launched ahead of the successor to Microsoft's Xbox 360 console.

We do think that a tablet made for gaming is a good idea. Most tablet products don't come near the hardware specs that a notebook or desktop PC have and as a result can't handle graphically intensive games.  Certainly, Razer believes that a high end gaming tablet is a good idea. However, we do hope that Microsoft makes some effort to improve the gaming controller experience on a tablet, which can be a tricky thing.

The biggest concern we have is that Microsoft may concentrate too much on the gaming features and not enough on other aspects, such as email, messaging, web surfing and media content. The Xbox 360 has evolved over the past seven years from a mere gaming machine into a true multimedia box. The Xbox Surface needs to have those kinds of features out of the gate, rather than wait to add them over a period of time.

The successor to the Xbox 360

Call it the Xbox 720. Call it Xbox Next. Heck, you can call it Cucamonga for all we care. But we know that Microsoft is working on the successor to the Xbox 360. The company's last console originally launched in 2005 and got a case design refresh in 2010. The hardware specs inside the console are now seven years old, so it's time for a true successor and we expect at least an official announcement around E3 2013 in June, and possibly a launch in late 2013.

As we mentioned previously, in the past seven years Microsoft has evolved the Xbox 360 from a mere gaming console to a hardware product that's designed to handle streaming video, music and more. It's Microsoft entry into the TV space that it has wanted for so long (WebTV, anyone?) and you can bet that its successor will have those kinds of features ready to go, with even more partners and features.

However, Microsoft knows that the next game console it makes has to have good games out of the box. The original Xbox had Halo but the launch of the Xbox 360 didn't have that stellar of a game launch line up. Microsoft needs to make sure that the first games for its next game console are killer.

Other possible product launches

Now we are getting purely into speculative territory. These are just our ideas and don't really come from rumor stories or inside information.

Big touch screen TVs for regular folks: The acquisition of Perceptive Pixel a few months ago means that Microsoft is making their massive touch screen TVs. While we won't be seeing an 82 inch touch screen television at Best Buy anytime soon, we think Microsoft could sell a 32-inch or 42-inch screen to regular consumers in 2013.

Surface All-in-one PCs: If Microsoft is making a tablet product, why doesn't it also come up with a PC made for the home office? The all-in-one PC market is taking off as many people and businesses don't want to deal with the normal desktop PC case that's hooked up to a monitor. It would seem a natural evolution for Microsoft to design and sell an all-in-one Surface PC in addition to its tablet, and we think they might be planning to do just that.

Non-gaming TV set top box: You like your Xbox 360 but you discovered that you really don't want to play games on it anymore. We know there are lots of Xbox 360 owners who simply use the console to stream or download videos or music. We think Microsoft knows this too. It wouldn't surprise us to learn that the company is working on an Xbox-like set top box that just has the media streaming features with no games.

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34 Comments

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If one is counting the number of new products, 2013 could be the biggest year yet.
If one is counting gross revenue, 2013 could be not so spectacular--we'll see by December 2013. Then, examine the long-term business revenue from the short-term consumer revenue.

Highly doubt it! Bold moves do not equal success! I for one don't see anything "new" and mind blowing. Will save my cash until the next big thing comes along.

To be honest, no. Windows 8 has too many issues with its apps (performance and lacking catalogue), WP8 is already behind in specs (no quad cores and 1080p screens), expensive tablets (RT and the coming x86 variants) will kill sales, and cannibalising their own sales when they release office on ios and android. Only big thing will be the new Xbox, everything else I think will pretty much be as uncompetitive as ever.

efjay said,
To be honest, no. Windows 8 has too many issues with its apps (performance and lacking catalogue), WP8 is already behind in specs (no quad cores and 1080p screens), expensive tablets (RT and the coming x86 variants) will kill sales, and cannibalising their own sales when they release office on ios and android. Only big thing will be the new Xbox, everything else I think will pretty much be as uncompetitive as ever.

What issues does windows 8 have with apps, I have not run into any problems what so ever with apps or hardware.

Not all Phones need quad core, so is a pointless point.
who really needs a 1080p screen on a phone, really???
RT tablets are not expensive for what you get
X86 tablets are not expensive for what you get.
they make more money selling certain software cross platform and that is their business.
and everything else will not be uncompetitive, that's just your personal opinion, not based on any facts.

i remember when we said 2012 was going to be the biggest year for Microsoft which i think it was and its getting bigger in 2013. Microsoft really woke up with vengeance for all the markets they played in

You guys forgot to add merger of Skype and Messenger.

And also Surface RT 2, which is going to be launched next year in all probability.

Will 2013 be Microsoft's biggest year ever?
Short answer:
NO
Long answer:
xbox360 is close to the end of the line and xbox720 is yet ready.
Windows8 is not widely accepted, most people are purchasing machine with windows8 (because there is not option for some cases) and installing (downgrading) to windows7
Windows RT smell like a troubles.
Windows 8 is a big bet, however they are relying in a bet that they lose (with windows mobile 7 and 7.5).
Surface RT is meh.
Surface Pro is too expensive.
Microsoft is giving part of the Office suite for free, it means less profit for MS (Office is the second flagship product of Microsoft).


Brony said,
Will 2013 be Microsoft's biggest year ever?
Short answer:
NO
Long answer:
xbox360 is close to the end of the line and xbox720 is yet ready.
Windows8 is not widely accepted, most people are purchasing machine with windows8 (because there is not option for some cases) and installing (downgrading) to windows7
Windows RT smell like a troubles.
Windows 8 is a big bet, however they are relying in a bet that they lose (with windows mobile 7 and 7.5).
Surface RT is meh.
Surface Pro is too expensive.
Microsoft is giving part of the Office suite for free, it means less profit for MS (Office is the second flagship product of Microsoft).


I agree with the no overall as the late 90s are hard to top for MS. Some of your points are pure opinion though and speculative at that.

- Xbox is near the end of its life cycle but it's still the #1 console period. XBNext or whatever will swoop in to take its place. A good analogy is the US space program. When shuttle ended we had (and still have) nothing to replace it. It'll be another year or two before we send humans up. That's a gap. There'll be no xbox vs nextbox gap or minimal at most.

- Windows 8 is going to be slow to adopt for sure but I haven't heard of anyone downgrading to 7. Wouldn't that require a purchase of 7 or for people to have their old installs laying around. I think the layman will just accept 8 and learn it. It's easy once you know it.

- RT is something I'm not familiar with but there are pros and cons for sure.

- SurfaceRT seems to be selling well but not sure how well it performs

- No official pricing on SurfacePro so no comment

- They're giving Office to people who buy RT. They are taking a loss on it but it's a major incentive to buy RT. They sold xbox at a loss for a long time and look where they are now.

So no, it won't be biggest but it'll be a big one and an important one. They've made some bold decisions in the past few months. They're changing their game and evolving. A release of Windows 8 that was ONLY faster than 7 pegs them as a stale old company set in their ways. Win8 is a risky move but I like it because it tells the status quo to take a hike. Should be an interesting next couple of years.

ahhell said,
BFD. MS is replacing them for free no questions asked. Apple would just give you the finger.

Exactly, Microsoft admitted to it being caused by the touch cover and is replacing them as necessary. Apple would have just said "you're using it wrong" and let their customers buy a new one on their own.

tytytucke said,
Yes Microsoft is perfect and apple is bad. high five fellow fan boys. /s

Where did anyone say that?
If MS was perfect, there wouldn't have been an issue with the Touch Cover in the first place. What they are doing is providing fantastic customer support.

ahhell said,

What they are doing is providing fantastic customer support.

I had several problems with the products I owned from Microsoft and I got F'd when I tried custom support. I'm still not over it that's why I'm venting here.

I think you are missing a couple things. Surface 2 and the secret update code named "blue". This will definitely be a big year for MS. I think though that you will need to wait until 2014 to see the result of all these big launches. So I think 2014 will be the year you really see the results.

I updated the XBOX app on my iPad3 last night, it was the SmartGlass update.. i must say i was pretty much blown away, it looked beautiful, it was very smooth and fluid and is definitely one of the best looking apps on my iPad.

If this is the sort of theme, structure and design style microsoft is going for across the board then i definitely think it will be microsoft's biggest year. I know this is only a small part of it but i was extremely drawn in...

my only niggle is that the smooth animations, which are very nice, they just delay using the app, every click and swipe takes longer than the iOS alternative of just showing you what you want.. nothing major but thats the beauty of iOS, it's simple and everything is just there at 1 press.

slightly going off but i've hardly taken notice and the xbox update really surprised me.

To be fair, a non-gaming Xbox set-top box is more then feasible - their Xbox services are available on the lowest end Windows Phones. I think it'd be quite easy to make an ARM-powered Xbox that actually uses a custom version of Windows Phone (that uses an Xbox-style UI rather then a Windows Phone UI). This way they don't have to maintain yet another OS, just maintain a UI layer on top of Windows Phone.

So MS has made its boldest move which is a complete surrender to and the blatant copying of Apple's business model. Unification between hardware and software.

Once laughed and scolded at by MS fanboys, now is embraced as new, innovative and great by the same fanboys.

lol

Welcome to the 21st century Microsoft, you are a little late to the show, I hope you make it.

I see that you didn't mention Apple blatantly ripping everyone off, calling it their own (magical!!), then suing the companies that they stole from. What about that, sport?

MS has been wanting to unify UIs across platforms for years. Do you really think that a massive shift like this happens over night? This has been in the works for a long time.

Sonne said,
So MS has made its boldest move which is a complete surrender to and the blatant copying of Apple's business model. Unification between hardware and software.

Once laughed and scolded at by MS fanboys, now is embraced as new, innovative and great by the same fanboys.

lol

Welcome to the 21st century Microsoft, you are a little late to the show, I hope you make it.

Except with real power and decent pricing, you're correct

Just in time for Apples downfall. Goody goody.

I was in a meeting with some Microsoft VPs back in 2000. Unification was there plan then. However their Anti Trust Case slowed down their progress. Sadly this lead to 10 years of, ehhhh.

"Non-gaming TV set top box" - if it supports Digital (free-to-air) TV viewing, and recording via a USB drive/external DVD recorder, and it's under $100, I think it would be a top seller.

Microsoft's problem (like a lot of other manufacturers) is that people are happy with what they have, so see no need to spend more money upgrading all the time, and Microsoft's solution is to make something new in the hope it will catch on and make consumers open their wallet. Tablets, Windows 8 etc, are not things most people want, so will not succeed (much like OLED TV's and 100" TV's that manufacturers want people to buy because they can make big profits on the high prices, trouble is people are happy with their $500 TV and aren't going to throw it away to buy a $10k TV)

The point of upgrading an entire product line and adding a few new ones such as Microsoft has done is to make sure your products are competitive when consumers do make a purchase. I have to disagree with you on tablets, many consumers do want the flexibility they offer. Don't get me wrong, if you are happy with what you got today that is great...keep on keeping on.

they need to do 2 things to get on top:

1. tie together all the services they provide
2. release regular upgrades with new features/enhancements at a pace above competition

the market they want to compete does not allow slow players. ms has to become faster.

typu said,
they need to do 2 things to get on top:

1. tie together all the services they provide
2. release regular upgrades with new features/enhancements at a pace above competition

the market they want to compete does not allow slow players. ms has to become faster.

Trust me, they will

I think 2012 has been absolutely crazy as it is. Who would have thought that Microsoft would be THE software company with the boldest design decisions in 2012?