Credit has to be given to Microsoft’s improvement in the area of operating systems. Operating systems are their core business, but just about every consumer release of Windows has been plagued with problems. And people who are clutching to XP – remember, it too has been full of problems. Think about XP pre-SP2. What a mess. I remember times when my entire campus was taken down in one afternoon by a worm. While this can still happen, Microsoft has clearly made an effort to improve with Windows 7.
Microsoft is not the Microsoft of old – some evil empire that just could not seem to do anything right. There recent products have been absolutely great. Now I am sure just about any tech reporter or blogger out there has sung Windows 7’s praise (even rabid Apple fanboys). I concur completely – even though I do also use Mac OSX, I am very, very impressed by Windows 7. In fact, I think it’s so good that most businesses would not follow the regular “wait for SP1” routine. Its amazing how you install an OS on a five year old laptop with obscure hardware and Windows 7 installs without a single hitch. When has this ever happened before?
Another area where Microsoft has impressed me is in the area of home entertainment and computing. Yes, I am a fan of Xbox. Its powerful, versatile and surprisingly well priced in South Africa (especially versus the Wii). It has had a lot of problems – in fact, I have gone through 3 overheating consoles already, but it seems they have ironed out the problems. You have to respect the company for extending the warranty on Xboxes. Its a great movie player as well - it can play videos from a variety of sources, which brings me to my next point.
My biggest praise however has to go to Windows Home Server – yes, how boring. But really, this is one of the most pleasant surprises I have come across in quite some time. As someone who has a few computers in my home its truly a life saver. No more manual backups to external drives – WHS just backs up all the machines that you tell it too, and as often as you want it to. Its great for pack rats as well – just keep adding hard drives to its pool, and it manages the rest. Yes, many alternatives exist, but none with the elegance of WHS. It streams videos to my Xbox, and with the right add on, even to your iPhone.
Now this piece might sound like songs of praise for Microsoft – true, they have made some great products recently, but I also want to see a few things from them in 2010. Do these few things, and I would be a happy camper:
- I have high expectations for the next release of Windows Home Server. I want built in streaming to multiple video formats and better power management controls (electricity is becoming expensive…). Its expected within this year still, and there is quite a few innovations coming.
- Windows Phone 7 Series. Windows Mobile has been a disaster for the last few years. True, a few companies stuck pretty skins over it, but it was dead in the water. Luckily Microsoft just announced their latest version which looks brilliant. Competition is a great thing, and currently iPhone and Android needs some competition - Palm clearly could not keep up, so maybe Microsoft can keep this exciting field going. Even if there is no victor, all phones will benefit.
- Office 2010 is pretty great – I have been running the Beta for quite a while already. Keep it up – I am looking forward to better social networking integration though. And even though MS could not buy Xobni, they should try again. Its just that good.
- Project Natal looks incredible, despite its lag in current demos. Xbox’s biggest weakness is that it does not attract the casual gamer market. Yes, the Wii market. It’s a very lucrative field, so if Microsoft can approach with a revolutionary control scheme such as Natal, the possibilities are endless. Make it affordable, and I expect it might give the Wii as serious run for its money.
- Then my final pointer is that Microsoft needs to address the SA market better. Xbox Live is still not available for South Africans. Yes, there are work arounds.But its mighty unfair asking me the same price for a game as someone in the US, yet you do not support the online component in SA (officially). Slowly but surely SA consumers are starting to expect more from their technology. But luckily Microsoft does see SA as an important part of its global strategy - if only more companies could do it as well. I am pretty sure a few companies still see Africa as a country.