Microsoft's next 12 months: A year of innovation ahead

At its Worldwide Partner Conference today, Microsoft's chief operating officer Kevin Turner gave a hint of what's to come from the company over the next twelve months with the slide that you see below. While not a full roadmap in the truest sense, it does offer a sense of what to expect from Microsoft in what the company claims will be its "biggest innovation year ever". 

Windows

In addition to the full release of Windows 8.1, which is expected soon after its release-to-manufacturing next month, the slide promises a range of new 'Windows 8.1 devices'. A major focus with 8.1 will be the launch of smaller Windows tablets, such as the Acer Iconia W3, which we'll be reviewing soon. 

A vast range of new APIs and tools in Windows 8.1, announced at last month's BUILD conference, will enable developers to create more comprehensive and immersive experiences in their third-party apps, while Microsoft is committed to improving and adding to its range of first-party apps, such as its recent Bing Food & Drink and Health & Fitness releases.

Windows Phone

Turner confirmed what we've long suspected in stating that Windows Phone phablets are on the way - just one aspect of the "killer hardware"  that the slide promises. The next big device for the platform will be the Nokia Lumia 1020, which will be revealed tomorrow, featuring a 41-megapixel camera.

But there's plenty more in store for Windows Phone over the next year. There'll be a renewed focus on low-cost devices, which will be critical in capturing share in emerging markets like India, where domestic handset manufacturer Micromax has committed to launch Windows Phone 8 handsets, and China, where Microsoft will soon be opening its own retail stores.

There'll also be improvements to the operating system, with an improved and integrated Skype user experience, along with some rather mysterious "Start screen innovation" also on the way.

Perhaps the most interesting note on the slide pointed to a "common app platform with Windows". While this could simply be referring to the code commonality between Windows 8 and Windows Phone, easily allowing developers to port apps between phones and PCs, it could also hint at app interoperability between the two. Watch this space. 

Windows Server, Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamics

Unspecified updates are in the works for Windows Intune, along with the upcoming release of SQL Server 14. Microsoft's commitment to helping organisations make sense of Big Data will see the launch of PolyBase, a new data processing engine in SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse, offering a simple way to combine relational and non-relational data. 

On the Microsoft Dynamics front, we'll see the release of new feature packs for Dynamics AX 2012 R2, adding to the range of new Windows 8 apps released this week by Microsoft for its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. This Fall will see the launch of CRM 2013, while NAV 2013 R2 is also on the way.

These aren't the only improvements for these products - other features and enhancements will be announced later. 

Surface 

Two boxes on the slide sound particularly exciting on the Surface front. "Update to Surface RT" and "Update to Surface Pro" sound an awful lot like the confirmation that we've been waiting for of new versions of Microsoft's tablets - but as for what improvements may be on the cards, your guess is as good as ours. 

The company also promises that a range of new accessories will be released for its tablet range, while new colour options will refresh its selection of existing peripherals. 

Xbox 

Not much was revealed here that we don't already know about, with the launch of the Xbox One, along with new first- and third-party games and accessories being lined up. 

One interesting new feature mentioned, though, is the advent of "music service updates" for the Xbox platform, although whether this simply points to the improved Xbox Music app for Windows 8.1, and the recent launch of Xbox Music on the web, is unclear.

Skype

In addition to enhanced experiences on Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone, Microsoft is also promising greater integration into Office 365 and Outlook.com; the company first launched Skype on Outlook.com earlier this year. As shown at the launch of the Xbox One in May, greatly improved Skype integration will feature on the new console, offering a Windows 8-style 'snap view', enabling voice and video calls while playing games or watching video content.

Improvements are also on the way for Skype users in business, with support for "large meetings", and a boost for enterprise calling in the cloud. 

Bing

Bing has got a huge boost in Windows 8.1 with search integration going deeper than ever before, throughout the operating system. At BUILD, where the OS update was launched, and at WPC, Microsoft frequently referred to Search as "the new command line" for the OS, and the company will continue to build on this. Expect further enhancements in the integrated Bing search experience in Windows Phone too.

Bing apps will continue to be a major focus for the company as well, with ongoing improvements to its software suite - including News, Sport, Weather and more - on Windows 8, while Bing on Xbox will also get a boost. Currently, Bing on Xbox only searches for content that you can play on the console - such as music, TV shows and movies - but we could yet see a more comprehensive search experience offering a broader range of options.

New Bing apps for Office will also be offered, while a "next-gen advertising" platform is also promised.

Office

Office apps will soon make their way to the Windows Store, offering an easy way for users to download apps that connect with and enhance the default Office programs, and likely replacing the existing standalone Office Store. For subscribers to Office 365, Microsoft reiterated its commitment to regular improvements, with quarterly updates as part of its new rapid release schedule

"Best in class" Office Web Apps will also be continuously updated, while Yammer integration with SharePoint and Lync will be offered too. 

 

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32 Comments

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What does MS innovate? maybe look at the stuff that comes out of MS research that they give alot away for FREE. seeing as apple and MS have a cross licensing deal apple can take anything they want i think and use it without penalty. Sure MS PR is generally a bit of a mess but the stuff they make is generally quite good. If MS got apple to do there PR there market share would probably be triple where it is now for WP. In regards to windows phone, for an OS that isnt very old its FAR FAR ahead of where iOS and android was in the same timeframe so stop bashing

With all the PR disasters they've had in the last year no wonder Microsoft has to use words like innovate.

I wonder who can actually deny the fact that Microsoft 8 got lots of bad press, Xbox 1 unveiling was a disaster, Windows Phone isn't where everyone expected it to be and their own handmade product (Surface) isn't selling at all.

A company doesn't simply go through shuffling of their CEOs for no reason, it usually happens when those guys make horrible decisions.

I like Microsoft but one thing that bothers me is whenever people try to defend them they use the words "wait for...." or "next year....".

So why is it ok for Microsoft to use the term innovate, but if this were any other company, they would get blasted. SMH!

Hilarious statement, since they've never really "innovated" anything. Microsoft wants to be Apple so bad that they actually believe they are.

What products from CRAPPLE that's actually "innovative" as you speak? All their products came from Microsoft and other manufactures that launched ahead of its time. Go back to your bridge troll.

sn0wbl1tz said,
What products from CRAPPLE that's actually "innovative" as you speak? All their products came from Microsoft and other manufactures that launched ahead of its time. Go back to your bridge troll.

You're calling him a troll yet you use the word crapple? Kid you are very funny, no wonder no one takes you seriously. Only fanboys get as defensive as you are or use outdated terms.

microsoft is trying to reorganize rather than innovation. Microsoft representative don't simply make a fool out of yourself by claiming something that isn't even true about your product.

"A year of reorganize ahead"

Kind of just spin - they won't top 2012 - certainly not from a Joe Bloggs/consumer perspective.

Bing integration will definitely irk me - and any antitrust issues...?

tegument said,
do some simple research before u speak.

Apple was one of the only companies to report substantial battery life increase in the MacBook Air. Most of the Windows laptops reported a couple hours laptop increase. Dells XPS went from 6 to 8 hours.

It is definitely a great increase but not double like all you fanboys seem to say.

And next time you post such a ignorant reply I'll get your mom to wash your mouth out for you.

stfu and bring the soap, we'll see what happens, you're the one who came in talkn nonsense and trying to claim everyone else was stupid by praising the battery increase that will be coming...u don't know wtf you're talking about so do not come in here spouting off as if u know the facts

I don't fully understand your slang language. Took you over two weeks to come up with that reply? I've backed up my claims, your turn.

WTF some of those innovations as they call them were not even Microsoft's idea. Anyone willing to put a patent on a design that could turn out useful for mankind is not innovating anything but rather restricting innovation imo. Just think what it would be like of Volvo didn't allow the 3 point seat belt system to be used and kept it to themselves...

Should keep in mind that much of what Microsoft is doing right now is "doing something different rather than doing the same thing better".

Personally I'd like to see a true successor to the Lumia 920 on AT&T, not this PureView 808 successor that is the 1020. New updates to the Surface are welcome as well.

I'm pumped for the new Surface versions. Hoping Pro has Haswell w/ 8-9 hr battery life. Also will be interesting about the accessories. I hope they make a dock for it where the dock has video out/usb ports. So I could have an external monitor plugged up w/ dedicated mouse/kb. Then When I plug the surface into the dock, it becomes a full desktop machine as well.

greensabath said,
I'm pumped for the new Surface versions. Hoping Pro has Haswell w/ 8-9 hr battery life. Also will be interesting about the accessories. I hope they make a dock for it where the dock has video out/usb ports. So I could have an external monitor plugged up w/ dedicated mouse/kb. Then When I plug the surface into the dock, it becomes a full desktop machine as well.
WiGig Doc with multi screen output would make my wallet spring open.

greensabath said,
I'm pumped for the new Surface versions. Hoping Pro has Haswell w/ 8-9 hr battery life. Also will be interesting about the accessories. I hope they make a dock for it where the dock has video out/usb ports. So I could have an external monitor plugged up w/ dedicated mouse/kb. Then When I plug the surface into the dock, it becomes a full desktop machine as well.

When you say "they", are you saying MS needs to do it? 'cuz these docks are already out there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI2UgP4MaoU)

I use mine to hook up my mouse, keyboard, external hard drives, Ethernet, sound and 3 monitors (more if I wanted), and my Surface Pro has effectively replaced the 8-year old triple-head PC I was using.

_dandy_ said,
When you say "they", are you saying MS needs to do it? 'cuz these docks are already out there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI2UgP4MaoU)

I use mine to hook up my mouse, keyboard, external hard drives, Ethernet, sound and 3 monitors (more if I wanted), and my Surface Pro has effectively replaced the 8-year old triple-head PC I was using.

I'd love to know more details about your setup. I'm in dire need of a new workstation and I want to use a Surface Pro. How well does the 3 monitor setup work/perform (I use 4 and would want 4 full size monitors including my surface). What hardware are you using to get the extra monitors etc.

I use one of these for each monitor. These adapters are made by the same guys who make the dock.

http://www.amazon.com/Plugable...gable+usb+3+display+adapter

Stay away from the USB 2 one. USB 3 keeps up fine.

These hook up my three 1920x1200 monitors, and the Surface itself acts as a fourth. Because I like to have spare parts ready to go at a moment's notice, I ordered one more adapter than I needed; when it got here, I hooked it up (temporarily, just to try it) and had no problem running 4 external monitors + the Surface (5 displays).
I suppose I could also use the dock's own DVI connector for one more. I think I read a post somewhere from a guy claiming to run a total of 7 monitors off of his USB dock. :-)

Running fullscreen HD video is keeping up fine. I don't know how well USB3 would hold up through if I tried playing fullscreen HD videos on multiple monitors at once, but I don't see how practical that would be. I'm not a gamer.

The dock itself has 6 USB3 ports (4 at the back, 2 at the front), and if that's not enough, any plain old USB hub could provide additional ports (this is how I hook up my mouse/wireless keyboard, which obviously don't need USB 3).

Seriously, the Surface Pro in this configuration pretty much kicks ass. When someone asks me whether 128GB is enough, I point out that I've never bought a laptop with tons of storage--that's what a NAS or external drives are for.

The only thing I miss is my 5.1 speaker setup, but if I really wanted to, I suppose I could use something like SoundBlaster's X-Fi (do they still make those, or does someone have a better version of this nowadays?)