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Did Microsoft just get its Mojo back?

by on03 April 2014

New approach, new products, new management

Microsoft took an extraordinary amount of flak over the last couple of years, so much so that the we could often envision Steve Ballmer piloting a shredded 8th Air Force B-17 through cordite laced skies of Germany in 1943.

Ballmer is gone and Microsoft is doing everything it can to reinvent itself, with Satya Nadella at the helm, or the cockpit if you like aviation analogies. Former Nokia boss Stephen Elop is going back to his roots. The controversial exec is Microsoft's new head of devices and he brought along some presents in the form of the gorgeous Nokia 930.

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Microsoft's reshuffled charm offensive appears to be working. Bill Gates as a tech adviser is just the icing on the cake.


Developers, developers, developers


The Build developer conference in San Francisco was an impressive show of force.

Microsoft rolled out Windows Phone 8.1, with Cortana, a digital assistant designed to take on Apple's Siri and Google Now. The plucky mobile OS also got a new action centre, new lock screen and start screen, along with two new OEM partners - Prestigio and Micromax.

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It is a massive update to what is already a very good mobile OS, which sadly isn't nearly as popular as Android or iOS. Windows Phone is probably the best mobile OS most users never had a chance to try.

That's not all though, not even close.


Cross-platform synergy


Microsoft is working to introduce universal apps, which will allow developers to design a single app for Windows phones, tablets, notebooks, desktops and the Xbox One. The latter isn't doing as well as many had expected, as Sony's PS4 appears to be eating its lunch in most markets.

Microsoft is also offering free Windows. Yes, free Windows. However, there is a catch. The new OS is dubbed Windows for Internet of Things and it will only run mobile apps, not legacy desktop software. This leads us to conclude that it is probably closely related to Windows Phone 8.x or even Windows RT. There is even talk of cheaper Windows Phone operating systems. The company is believed to charge about $10 per phone, while Google's Android is practically free.

Last week we finally got Microsoft Office for iPad, which is a nice addition to Redmond's portfolio. If you can't beat them, join them - Apple's iPad is still the daddy of the tablet market and it is also very popular among business users. Office supports means a lot - as it can transform the iPad into a productivity beast, but it may need some tweaks.

Oh yes - Microsoft is also bringing back the Start menu and it will also include support for windowed Metro-style apps.


So, do we miss Ballmer?


It was easy to poke fun at Steve Ballmer all these years, but he still deserves a lot of credit. Microsoft's latest moves come just two months after he stepped down. In other words most if not all of them were the brainchild of the Ballmer regime - and we like them. A lot.


Ballmer had months to prepare for the transition and the Microsoft Nadella took over is quite a bit different from the Microsoft of 2007 or 2011. The company finally has competitive products in mobile, Windows 8.1 tablets and hybrids are a reality. The house of Redmond is in order and it is looking a lot better than it did just a year ago.

Give credit where credit is due. Ballmer may have messed up a few things and missed a number of opportunities, but he was not alone and he did a lot to make up for it. In case you'd like to refresh your memory you can check out Ballmer's seve cardinal sins, according to the Fudzilla Ye Olde Testament.

So yes, we love the revamped Microsoft and its cool new CEO, but to be honest we will miss Ballmer, Redmond's delightfully understated workhorse.

Last modified on 03 April 2014
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