Wishlist Revisited: Microsoft’s 10 redundant things

I’m going back through some of my old “wishlist” of items that I wish Microsoft would do (back then). Now I’m revisiting them and assessing the status of each wish. For this post, I’m referring to a post from August 11, 2009 on “10 ‘redundant’ things Microsoft could perhaps fix.”

I felt back in 2009 that there were a lot of redundant products that would have been better combined into one. I pointed out the redundancy, and pointed out the solution I thought would be most ideal. Here we go.

1. Microsoft Office v. Microsoft Works – I suggested the different branding was annoying and the lack of UI similarities (Works was like Office 2003 in UI). I suggested Office Web Apps as it’s true replacement, or finding discounts for Office, etc.

Result: When Office 2010 came, MS Works was replaced with Office Starter 2010 (ad-supported). It had Word Starter, Excel Starter, and PowerPoint Viewer all with obviously reduced functions. Only available directly to OEMs like Microsoft Works was, and got discontinued in June 2012. Office 2013 came, but did not offer “basic” desktop Office programs. Instead, Microsoft was hoping those users would either go with buying a Windows RT tablet that has the main Office apps all included with no restrictions (outside of pure desktop macros and such). Plus Office Web Apps have expanded their functionality very much since then and are great for those on the go.

Thoughts: I thought Office Starter was a good evolution to MS Works. At least Office Starter looked like Office 2010 at the same time, had a clearer associate to Office than “Works” did, and provided just the basic stuff. I’m OK with Office 2013 pushing for users who couldn’t afford the suite to either go for the 365 subscription model, buy a Windows RT device, or use Office Web Apps. Wish fulfilled.

2. Windows Media Player v. Zune software client – Zune was still alive back then, and WMP could technically do more stuff and was still running outside music catalogs in its system. I thought WMP would be better of having it’s features built directly into Windows Explorer instead, and Device Stage for syncing with other MP3 players. Zune software would still continue as is.

Result: Well Zune software is practically dead now unfortunately, where the social features and marketplace practically no longer exist. WMP wasn’t updated at all for Windows 8. There are now separate video and music apps for the Modern UI that offer significantly less functionality than WMP/Zune, and focus more on the Xbox store content.

Thoughts: Disaster! Today, I’d have prefer that WMP had been updated to resemble the Zune client UI and combine their functions, and for the Modern UI apps to have as much of the functionalities as possible. Instead, WMP gets no update, Zune client is dead, and the Modern UI versions are terrible in the features, meta-data pulling, and concentrates too much on the Zune library instead of your library. Wish unfulfilled.

3. Zune Marketplace v. Xbox Live Marketplace v. other Microsoft marketplaces – I thought it’d be much more cooler to have all these stores cross-accessible as one destination store divided up into obvious respectable sections.

Result: It worked kind of. Zune Marketplace folded into the Xbox Marketplace brand as its music and video selection. Xbox games are directly available in the Windows Store under the Games section.which. Office app store is still very separate though. Plus there’s no desktop software available on the Windows Store. Plus you can’t access directly from the Windows Store the music and video library from Xbox Marketplace.

Thoughts: Today, I’d prefer that the Windows Store include direct access to Xbox music/videos/podcasts content, and an Office section too. While there are games and Xbox-certified ones in the Games section of the store, you still have to visit separate apps for music and videos (still no podcast support!) rather than natively in the store. Office still has it’s own isolated marketplace within its software and on its website. Wish semi-fulfilled.

4. Windows Live Sync v. Windows Live SkyDrive v. Live Mesh – Combine all these internet-based file services into one.

Result: Well Microsoft did get rid of Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of features from both of those that never made it to SkyDrive. At least they dropped the Windows Live branding.

Thoughts: Relatively good. Today, I hope SkyDrive will eventually have some of the cool features these other two had (like easy remote desktop access, direct PC-to-PC sync) and continue to evolve into the best online file management solution. Wish fulfilled.

5. Internet Explorer v. MSN Explorer – MSN Explorer hardly has anything worth downloading for and may pull away people from using IE10.

Result: Oddly, it still continues to exist and now supports Windows 8. The website still looks like it came from the early 2000s (with Microsoft Passport sign-in!) but they updated the text, and the page is under “2013 Microsoft Corporation.” It still looks the same as it was years ago it seems (not that I tried it) it’s just updated to still operate in 2013.

Thoughts: At this point, I don’t really care anymore about MSN Explorer that much. I guess they still have dial-up services offered to people out in the country, but it seems like dead weight the company should just drop. Wish unfulfilled.

6. Windows Live Personalized Experience v. Windows Live Home v. MyMSN – Concede that there are much better players on the market (Netvibes and MyYahoo!) and just ax MyMSN and my.live.com for sure. Windows Live Home just needs to offer a better dashboard of your MS account.

Result: Well it turns out WLPE did get axed, as well as Windows Live Home. Windows Live Home has for all purposes  just transformed into your Outlook inbox or SkyDrive page with notifications in the header. MyMSN continues to exist though, and I give kudos that they’ve kept the service updated at least. You can add modules like Outlook Calendar, Bing Travel Booking Service, and at least you can add an RSS feed. I still think Netvibes and MyYahoo! (at least at the time) were still better than this.

Thoughts: Good. I liked WLPE more visually than MyMSN (which still looks like crud) but they were very unnecessary services in general. While I get the easy simplicity of just getting rid of Windows Live Home and focusing on just going directly to Outlook/SkyDrive, I think Microsoft should have a web-based dashboard for what’s going on with things attached to your Microsoft account. Get a preview of unread/recent messages, social media notifications/mentions, quick news and stocks, etc. I’m guessing they’d rather you use the Windows 8 Start Screen or have a Windows Phone, though this doesn’t work if you have neither operating systems. Wish semi-fulfilled.

7. SkyDrive photo storage v. Windows Live Photos – No, not Windows Live Photo Gallery. Windows Live Photos was basically an online photo viewer connected to your Windows Live profile and a separate front end from SkyDrive. Originally, I wanted MS to improve SkyDrive’s lack of good photo viewing features, and thus get rid of WL Photos whose features seemed to make more sense being directly in SkyDrive instead. At the time, Microsoft was very focused on making Windows Live very much a social network as Facebook, and obviously needed photo sharing features.. Here are pics if you’ve forgotten:

         

Result: Well the WL Photos front end was finally scrapped thankfully on a SkyDrive update in June 20, 2011. Pretty much any of it’s important features got merged into SkyDrive’s photo viewing experience.

Thoughts: Well they did listen. Microsoft’s attempt at social networking at the time were too weak and too late unfortunately, and it did make more sense to concentrate on something that had better potential. Wish fulfilled.

8. MSN News v. MSNBC News – It seemed conflicting that MSNBC had its own variety of news content, while MSN News itself also offered its own variety of news content (though mostly pulled and compiled from other popular sites and put onto MSN).

Result: Microsoft and NBC split their ties on the “partnership” (which always seemed to favor NBC way more than Microsoft), and now NBC bought Microsoft’s 50% stake and totally owns MSNBC’s name. Most of the real article-based news content became NBC News, and MSNBC is now very much directly about video content based on the cable channel.

Thoughts: Perfect. It always seemed odd how MSN and MSNBC had competing content. Yes, NBC benefitted a bit from being the main news provider on MSN.com and getting hits from there, and MS benefitted by integrating or also including MSN links, and Bing search and maps on there. But it was a really weak relationship with each offering mostly competing content. Plus MSNBC’s polarizing views have put it in line with Fox News. Wish fulfilled.

9. Multiple Windows versions – With Windows 7, Microsoft 4 different versions (Starter, Home Basic, Professional, and Enterprise) should be reduced to 2 versions: Home and Ultimate (Ultimate being everything a business needs).

Result: With Windows 8, not much has changed too much. There’s no Starter or Home Basic at least. It’s now Windows 8, Pro, Enterprise and RT.

Thoughts: It’s not something that I really care about either. I’ve known and realized that for a company that’s based a lot on its operating systems, it makes sense to have a few variations on a desktop OS. At least these versions mostly make sense. I still would prefer they at least combined Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. So there’d just be RT, Home and Enterprise. I’m more of a fan of simplicity I guess. Wish semi-fulfilled.

10. Games for Windows LIVE v. MSN Games v. Xbox Live Arcade vs. Windows Live Messenger Games – Boy this was a big one. At the time, I thought all these separate gaming entities should be combined into one game section on the #3 idea of the all-in-one Microsoft Marketplace.

Result: Windows Live Messenger games are gone, period. Games for Windows LIVE is half dead, with Microsoft still treating it like a forgotten relative, although now it’s under a weird half-step of being under the Xbox website but still keeping its same name. MSN Games is also still its own entity. Xbox Live Arcade (or Marketplace in general) is still its own thing.

Thoughts: Microsoft has still kept these entities separate. Today, I’d prefer MS to combine these separate gaming entities into simply “Xbox Games” that share achievements, gamerscore, etc. on multiple platforms: Xbox, Xbox on PC, Xbox Mobile, and Xbox on Skype. Xbox of course being games for its console, Xbox on PC replacing Games for Windows Live and MSN Games, Xbox Mobile for Windows Phone/iOS/Android, and Xbox on Skype to replace Windows Live Messenger games. Wish unfulfilled.

So overall 4 were fulfilled, 3 semi-fulfilled, and 3 un-fulfilled. Not too bad. What are your thoughts?

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10 ‘redundant’ things that Microsoft could perhaps fix

There are generally two types of feelings when it comes to a company that makes many various products/services with overlapping similarities.

One feeling is the separatist feeling. This person prefers, and likes that the company does business in this style. This person likes this approach because he/she feels the benefits would mean broader price ranges available, more choices to picking exactly the right one, able to avoid ones with extraneous features he/she may not want to deal with, and maybe the feeling of superiority with having the best of the company’s product line among other advantages.

The other feeling is integrationist. This person would rather see more integration, and less smorgasbord of choices if possible. This person prefers this approach because he/she wants a more simpler set of choices regardless of the limited price range, better and smoother integration among the company’s other products/service, and not having to deal with or buy extra product/services because what was purchased wasn’t enough.

I’m more of the former, and believe that by integrating and merging similar products, Microsoft can get rid of its redundant offerings and focus on the functionality and experience of one or few, instead of many applications to make it easier to deal with.

Here’s a list of examples of redundancies I’ve noticed in Microsoft’s offerings and what I think Microsoft should do about it:

1. Microsoft Office v. Microsoft Works – Between these two, I think Microsoft Works needs to die. It conflicts not just with Microsoft Office, but also Windows Live Calendar, Windows Live People/Contacts, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Encarta Dictionary, and maybe other Microsoft offerings. The latest, Works 9, offers at least fairly good basic applications, but with free Office Web Applications to come out soon, not to mention discounts you can find on copies of Office in the right places, I really don’t think Microsoft should bother with Works anymore, and focus on Office entirely. I really don’t like the strange user interface that Works goes with anyhow. [Good overview video of Works 9]

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2. Windows Media Player v. Zune software clientWindows Media Player and Zune software client both offer VERY similar functionality. However, one software is clearly designated for the Zune device. In my opinion, there really needs to be some type of merging done. I think it would be best if Microsoft discontinued WMP. Now I really do like WMP, and I know how important it’s been in Windows, but the times have changed. Considering Windows 7, I really think that WMP’s functionality as a program to play/manage media and sync with many devices can now be replaced by Windows Explorer and Device Stage. Of course, Windows Explorer could use a fix for better media playing/managing functionality and more devices needs to support Device Stage (if not, just plug in the external hard drive anyway), but it can work. Zune software can still be an independent media playing/management software for the Zune, while those with other portable media players could just do with Windows Explorer and Device Stage. Best of both worlds. I still wish and hope that Microsoft will allow Zune users the option of plugging it in and using Windows Explorer if desired.

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3. Zune Marketplace v. Xbox Live Marketplace v. other Microsoft marketplaces.. – Even though there’s an Xbox update for Zune video content to be available on Xbox, I want to take it a step further and completely merge Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune Marketplace, Windows Mobile Marketplace, Windows Live Gallery, Office Clip Art & Templates, Internet Explorer Gallery and even the former Windows Marketplace all into one download store. I’m guessing it could be called “Microsoft Marketplace” or “Microsoft Download Store” (MDS) or simply “The MarketPlace”. Here’s how I think it can work. You can buy and view EVERYTHING available in The MarketPlace, or you can enable which items show up by choosing the desired platforms you’re interested in viewing in the Settings menu. All purchases are tied to a Windows Live ID and you can use this on every platform when buying or accessing purchases. You can purchase ANY content on Marketplace no matter what platform you are on, but you can only download/stream it if content supports that platform you are accessing it from.

For instance, say if you are accessing The MarketPlace from a Zune HD, you could buy a Xbox theme, a Clip Art file, a Windows software program, and a song. You can buy all that stuff on the Zune HD, but you could only download the song and maybe the Clip Art file, because those are the only purchases that can actually work your Zune HD. Later, you could login into The MarketPlace from your Xbox and PC with your Windows Live ID, and then download the theme onto Xbox, and the program onto Windows. I think a mega-combined Microsoft download store could be really neat as it allows users to view and perhaps buy ANYTHING available in MarketPlace on any Microsoft platform, and tie it to a secure Windows Live ID so if needed, you could always download it later on the correct platform and keep track of what you’ve purchased.

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4. Windows Live Sync v. Windows Live SkyDrive v. Live Mesh – This one isn’t so hard to break up. Live Mesh basically does everything that Windows Live Sync does, so combining Live Mesh and Windows Live Sync will be a no brainer. I’d prefer if they kept the name Windows Live Sync, because ‘Sync’ gives users a better idea of what it is, rather than ‘Mesh’. I think SkyDrive can either stand independent or also be integrated into Sync+Mesh as a full fledged cloud storage option. If SkyDrive does get folded into Sync+Mesh, I hope it’s still easily accessible without having to bother with synchronization options that users may not want to bother with.

5. Internet Explorer v. MSN Explorer – This one shouldn’t be that difficult either. MSN Explorer isn’t that great and hardly on par with even IE6. I have used it though, and it felt kinda neat with the little graphic gimmicks, but it got boring fast. MSN doesn’t even really support it anymore, so just cut the ax on MSN Explorer once and for all. Internet Explorer 8 has been a very great browser, and in my opinion, on par with the other latest browsers.

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6. Windows Live Personalized Experience v. Windows Live Home v. MyMSN – All of Microsoft’s start pages, whether it’s MyMSN or My.Live.Com or Windows Live Home, are rather cruddy. MyMSN and My.Live.Com definitely need to get axed. MyMSN, even the new version, is a weak attempt in pushing more dumb MSN content onto a page, with no 3rd party module support, low customizability, and just plain BORING. Don’t even bother fixing it up! My.Live.Com was a nice modest attempt at a start page, but considering there’s been no update for over 2 years, and no response on it, it’s just best to also knock this one down too. Netvibes and MyYahoo! are much better start pages, and Microsoft could make some more official applications for those. Anyhow, that leaves simply just Windows Live Home, though I hardly call it the same category, though there’s been a little debate on what “Microsoft want” your homepage to be. I think of Windows Live Home as a simple dashboard to all things going on in your Windows Live network.

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7. SkyDrive photo storage v. Windows Live Photos – Are they the same or not? Well apparently, based on what I remember, anything uploaded onto Windows Live Photos gets stored in SkyDrive. So basically, Windows Live Photos is an alternative front end to your SkyDrive photo storage. If you ask me, that’s just plain silly. Why highlight only photos, and not other things like videos, documents, etc.? Anyway, I suggest Microsoft scraps away the Windows Live Photos front end, highlight SkyDrive as a place to store/share files, and fix the SkyDrive front end so that it would be more ideal for viewing users’ photos, videos, music and more without having to download the files if not desired.

8. MSN’s content articles v. MSNBC news articles – This is more of a sticky issue than anything. MSN uses MSNBC for international/major news coverage. At the same time, both offer content articles from different sites. You see, they both have articles on certain categories, like technology, health, travel, but on separate sites. For instance, MSN Health and MSNBC’s health section both have news regarding medical stuff. Sometimes, I’ve seen a MSNBC article ON an MSN content page. Talk about nuts. My solution: Merge MSN’s unique content onto MSNBC’s corresponding pages, or just knock out most MSN content sites altogether. MSN does have some nice unique content and tools, but it’s not much that you couldn’t find on another similar, more in depth site. MSN Health can’t really compete much against WebMD, especially when you consider most articles are from outside sources. So maybe it would be better if MSN just quits while it’s ahead, and kill MOST of it’s content sites, and just stick to Entertainment and special features stuff. It’s not like the MSN team is really trying much.

9. Multiple Windows versions – I don’t have a problem with choice, but I do when the choices are too similar and get confusing. Windows 7 improves the choices line-up a bit better, but I still think there could be more simplification without sacrifice. I’d like to say that there should just be two versions: Home and Ultimate. Home will work great for the majority of computer users, and is the same as Home Premium. Home would replace Starter and Home Basic. Ultimate would be targeted to business users or users that want it all. Ultimate would replace Professional and Enterprise. So what about the markets intended for the other versions? Well here’s why I would skip the following ones:

  • Starter – Too slimmed down, and I don’t think the Windows user experience should be stripped like that. It’s can’t run Aero, no 64 bit support doesn’t make a quality user experience that I think Windows should always be.
  • Home Basic – The version for ‘emerging markets’. The same reason as starter, I still think the Windows user experience is important, and I don’t want it to be reduced so people in a 3rd world country can afford something substandard. I feel for poor people, and I’d rather they go to Linux or Windows CE or something, then Microsoft dropping things out just to meet their needs.
  • Professional – This is geared towards smaller businesses. I think businesses should just go directly with Ultimate anyhow, because they might utilize its features eventually and they should have access to the best built-in tools. Anyway, more is usually better.
  • Enterprise – This is a biggie. It’s only available to large companies to be deployed across many of its computers, and would have several unique SA benefits and whatnot. Instead, I think Microsoft should still apply the SA-benefits over to versions of Ultimate when an enterprise wants the Ultimate version, instead of having to make a whole separate ‘version’

So anyway, I think with a little adjustments in some cases, Windows Home and Ultimate should be plenty for everyone.

10. Games for Windows (Live) v. MSN Games v. Xbox Live Arcade v. Windows Live Messenger games – This is a tricky bunch. Games For Windows is Microsoft’s ‘platform’ for pushing PC gaming to be more popular, MSN Games is a site where you can play/download pretty much casual/arcade games and earn badges online, Xbox Live Arcade is Microsoft’s digital store for selling video games on the Xbox, and Windows Live Messenger games is games that can be played on Windows Live Messenger. Though these are all on different platforms, there could be a way to unite them because they all deal with games. I would suggest that Microsoft should put all the games available on its 4 platforms into the ‘Games’ section on MarketPlace (refer to idea #3).

I’m wishing that the games available on MarketPlace can work across most if not all platforms. Like I could be playing Uno on Messenger, while my buddy is playing it in his web browser, another buddy on Xbox, and maybe another one on Zune. At the same time, it would be neat if there were a unified Achievements board across all 4 platforms, so it’s not just an Xbox or MSN only thing. Anyway, a way to combine all these ‘gaming’ platforms together would be a wonderful idea in my opinion.

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I’m thinking that a good implementation of merging and integrating will create a seamless, dynamic way of unifying Microsoft’s platforms and make the end user’s experience much more simple and fun.

Any questions, doubts, compliments, or something you’d like to say? Just comment!

Note: Just so you know, these are more wishes in an ideal world than anything. Probably most things on this list won’t be implemented for obvious reasons, because we don’t live in an ideal world. #9 won’t work because of prices and user types, #2 because many APIs use WMP, etc.

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