I’ll be quite honest, I’m a die-hard Microsoft fanboy. However, even I’ll admit that they’ve looked really shaky in the past few years – they’ve played it way too safe and they’ve been way to happy to retreat into this shell of theirs. They’ve basically looked like a former shadow of themselves. Microsoft was too comfortable in their shoes after the enormous success of Windows 7; they thought they had the “Midas touch”. Clearly they had forgotten about Windows Vista and how poorly received it was. Then came Windows 8 and it was such a disaster that Microsoft was jolted back to their senses. The damage control started, major changes were made in the company and they seemed determined to right their wrongs. Fast-forward to now and Microsoft seems like it’s on the verge of dominating everything again.
Windows 8 was a very ambitious project, but it was a poorly-realized idea and ultimately seemed quite unfinished. To me, it felt clunky, the start screen annoyed me and I hated the charms bar. My PC felt more like a tablet than a full-fledged computer. Ultimately, it felt like a huge step backwards from its excellent predecessor. I could see what they were trying to achieve, but the end result was just so dissatisfying. The company couldn’t afford another misstep because it would be the last nail in its coffin. They had to get something right – Windows Phone 8 was their saving grace at the time. It brought in a host of new features and for the first time didn’t feel like the “alpha” version, more like the “beta”. This doesn’t sound like a compliment, but trust me, it is. Microsoft realized what a hit the software is, despite some issues like a limited marketplace and it feeling a little too simple, they pumped money into it and kept releasing updates that made the software better and better. They tried to redeem themselves with the announcement of the XBOX One, but its DRM policy and the console being less powerful than its rival, the PS4, at least on paper meant that Microsoft had another worry on their hands.
Microsoft had realized that Windows 8 was irredeemable and decided to start working on its successor (maybe you’ve heard of it, Windows 10?). Windows 8.1 was a step in the right direction and it did bring some quality-of-life improvements. However, it was still the same OS underneath and that couldn’t be masked. With the XBOX, they changed their DRM policy (much to the thanks of everyone) but its release price was still $100 more than the PS4’s. This was because they were bundling the Kinect with every XONE and you couldn’t opt out of this. Trouble after trouble seemed to plague Microsoft and it seemed that the hole they were in kept getting deeper.
I’m not sure how to put it… but, Microsoft bounced back. They were angry, looking for redemption and, of course, they were hungry for success. One of the many moves they made is to buy Nokia so that they can manufacture their own phones. The Nokia and Microsoft ecosystem was so tightly interwoven already that the decision seemed like a no-brainer. They then announced Windows 10 would be free for all users as a way of saying “sorry for Windows 8“. The preview was very promising and it looked like what Windows 8 was meant to be, but could never be. It brought back the fan-favourite Start Menu and the God-awful live tiles are optional, it brings virtual desktops, a new browser (hallelujah!), a modern command prompt and of course, Cortana. They’re actually gonna launch Windows 10 on all their devices (XONE included). This means that there are no longer going to be different versions of the same software, a la Windows 8 RT and Windows Phone.
They’ve licensed out Windows 10 to lots of companies for them to use in their phones. Speaking of Windows 10 on mobile, it looks absolutely gorgeous. It looks like it’s finally left the beta stage and is now a complete product. I’ve been using Windows phones since version 7, so I know exactly how much its improved. The XBOX One had to struggle in the shadow of the PS4 for its first year. However, Microsoft had some tricks up its sleeves – the price of the console was lowered, lots of exclusives were secured, XBOX Gold members started receiving better free games and Microsoft also tied up with EA to introduce early access on the console. something that its rival didn’t have. That isn’t the end of the story – they dropped huge bombs during this year’s E3. The XONE is going to receive backwards compatibility (yay!) plus a large number of exclusives in winter 2015. Microsoft also tied up with Oculus and Valve to provide compatibility for their VR headsets on the XONE as well as Windows 10. Additionally, Microsoft is also developing something known as the Hololens, a headset which allows us too see holograms (like in Star Wars and more recently in Iron Man). The E3 demonstration for the device was spectacular and this really is revolutionary technology.
Microsoft’s E3 press conference was almost overwhelming; they showed so much. And the funny thing is that even then, a lot was left out from the show. Microsoft said they’ll show the rest at Gamescom. They also announced that with Windows 10 we’ll be able to stream games from our XONE to our PCs. I like how Microsoft is thinking – develop an entire ecosystem of products that will fulfil all of one’s technological demands. Things are finally looking on the up and Microsoft seems posed to recapture the market. They’re attacking the market from every angle and customer-satisfaction seems to be one of their main priorities. Microsoft seems to be evolving from a sleeping giant to the behemoth that it once was, except even better.
Windows 10 is due to release later this month (3 weeks from now) and I can’t wait for it. If we go by Microsoft’s track record, they always have a miss and then a hit – Windows 2000 followed by the excellent Windows XP, Vista followed by 7, then Windows 10 should be quite spectacular as Windows 8 was most certainly a huge “miss”. These changes didn’t
materialize out of thin air; new management was brought in to ensure the company’s success. Steve Ballmer was out and Satya Nadella was in as CEO and this was a masterstroke as ever since, Nadella took over, Microsoft has been taking all the right steps. It’s kind of like a rebirth of the company; everything was revamped and it got a nice facelift.
Microsoft has always been a company that has never ceased innovating. They constantly release new technology and now hardware which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Windows 8 is an example of the latter. But one has to admit, that had Windows 8 not been such a trainwreck, then Microsoft probably wouldn’t have done all it has done since the OS’s release. So many good things would not have taken place and it is only because the OS was panned that development of Windows 10 was rushed. So, it may have been a good thing in the long run (sounds very strange, I know, but if Windows 10 is really good, then Windows 8 would have been worth it). We’re on the verge of witnessing a new era of Microsoft and the excitement is building. All I can say, is “Microsoft is back!”.