2010: Microsoft’s Highs and Lows

Every year, I plan to blog what I consider to be the high points and the low points of the year for Microsoft. Like practically all of my lists, there’s no specific ranking of any of the items. I try my best to come up with as many good ones, but it’s not easy. Here’s what this year’s highs and lows seemed to be:

High Points:

1. Xbox Kinect – Having a pretty successful launch, Kinect has been reported to have sold 1 million within 10 days of launch, 2.5 million since November 29, 2010, and estimated to reach 5 million by the end of 2010. What makes Kinect super awesome is that it’s somewhat of a revolution for video game consoles, similar to the Wii back a few years ago. Controller-less gaming might be the thing of the future, and with many interesting hacks to leverage Kinect with the PC, as well as Microsoft aiming for a possibility with interfacing with Windows 8, then there will be a lot of potential with the Kinect technology that will go mainstream.

2. Windows Phone 7 – It’s practically the only new smartphone OS to actually bear a unique UI that’s actually good since the iPhone first game out. Taking the advantages of a closed but tailored user experience like Apple does, and the hardware openness like Android has, WP7 might make it to the top if it keeps trucking. Yes, it does deviate from the original Windows Mobile with less hardcore features and software openness, but with continued updates and improvements to the OS, WP7 will prove to be much better than the original and hopefully developers are keen to take advantage of a new and simple market.

3. Office 2010 – A more evolutionary upgrade, than revolutionary, but it further enhances Microsoft’s productivity tools. All of the Office applications now have the Fluent/Ribbon interface that manages to nicely place so many functions in an organized and clean way. Along with extra long-waited features in each app, there is also free Office Web Apps(which replaced Office Live Workspaces) for easy on-the-go cloud editing and viewing. Microsoft has also recently announced Office 365, an innovative online service that brings seamless integration with Office on the desktop, to the web, to the mobile phone.

4. Windows Live Essentials 2011 – Like every new release of Essentials, there are of course big updates, mostly being the Fluent/Ribbon interface in the core apps. Some better integration with existing Live services, as well as better extensions support to other 3rd party services too.

Low Points

1. Microsoft Kin – Despite the quirky market it seemed targeted towards, this is also another Microsoft offering I felt offered some, though limited potential. As a feature phone, it was fairly some very top-notch hardware and software. What features phones can compare with 5MP or higher camera lens, Tegra chips, 4GB+ built-in storage and more? Software-wise, the Spot was a pretty ingenious method of copy-and-pasting on a mobile phone thru clip-drag-and-drop, the Kin Studio being a wonderful way to sync/share/back-up content to the cloud, and the social networking hotspot seemed neat too.

What really hurt it mostly was Verizon’s attached data plans. For a feature phone, paying a smartphone data plan is ridiculous and might have stemmed from some internal bickering between the two companies. Also, for a market targeted towards tweens/teen/young-adults into social networking, no true support for IM (though it was built-in yet hidden), no calendar/appointment application, no spell-check or predicative text, makes it not too great of a socializer phone. To top it off, no app market and a GPS only used for geocoding photos really hurt its chances of surviving.

2. Windows Live Spaces – Sadly disappointed to see Spaces go. I had some small hope that maybe Microsoft might be working on a brand new improved Spaces but I should have known based on Microsoft’s past history with failed Windows Live projects. What made me annoyed was that the team was stagnant for years, released a minor update about more than a year ago, and yet spam continued to be plopped on almost every post, lack of good Spaces gadgets, and a very large community of “person x wants to add you on Windows Live” made me really fed up.

I’m sure if Microsoft had created a new Spaces, offering a clean yet very customizable easy-to-use blog designs, super spam prevention, special paid domain URLs, and especially more social connecting (which WordPress seems to lack) it might have succeeded better.

3. Windows Live Hotmail HTTPS – Seemed very ridiculous for those of us that want to access our Hotmail accounts via both the web or the Windows Live Mail client are advised not to leave the web version on HTTPS (SSL) by default, because it might have synchronization issues with Live Mail. Microsoft can’t send a minor bug fix to Essential users? Guess we’ll have to wait another year for a ‘wave’ to occur.

4. Microsoft PC/Web gaming – Very little has been done outside Xbox in terms of gaming. Microsoft has recently updated the Games for Windows Live marketplace with a new look, slightly better game deals, and more titles and such, but with Steam already having a massive user-base, a highly-liked DRM scheme, as well as a good client and all, Microsoft still has a long ways to go to catch-up. A new Flight Simulator had been announced, but details are scarce. MSN Games seems to be going down the tubes to be replaced with a new type MSN Games that’s very similar to Bing Games, which as I have posted before, currently sucks. Messenger games finally got a new look, but it’s not really that much better. Overall, I’m disappointed.

That’s pretty much it. Any opinions or anything I should have added to either list?

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