October saw the biggest month in Microsoft history, with a number of high profile releases and the culmination of many years of product development which has reshaped Microsoft from the software giant of old, into a devices and services company looking to the future with their bold new design philosophy. They’re so serious about their new focus, that they’ve even updated the title tag of their website to reflect this.
Xbox 360 Dashboard Update
First out of the gate was the new Xbox 360 dashboard update, which brings an updated user interface, support for SmartGlass applications, as well as the shiny new Xbox Music and Video services which replace the Zune services of old. Importantly, this update brings better integration with the Windows 8 operating system…
On 26th of October, Windows 8 was officially made available, starting with a midnight launch at Times Square in New York City.
Desktop, Laptops, all-in-ones, tablets on both Arm and X86 processors with touch, keyboard and pen are all refreshed with the new operating system. With a greater focus on personalisation and touch use, Windows 8 can be thought of as a new mobile operating system that also has a ‘desktop’ app which lets you run all of your existing Windows 7 software. It’s not just for new computers though, Microsoft said that it had served four million upgrades in the first three days after launch.
Surface for Windows RT
The launch day of Windows 8 also saw the launch of Windows RT and the first Microsoft Surface tablet computer. Windows RT is much like Windows 8, sharing the same new user interface and full screen applications, but doesn’t support legacy Windows 7 applications. Making this break allows for better battery life and ‘instant on’ use which is ideal for small tablet computers.
Windows Phone 8
The 29th of October saw Microsoft released the Windows Phone 8 platform into the wild, including flagship phones from both HTC and Nokia, the Windows Phone 8 platform brings hundreds of new features which help users get things done. One of which is ‘Kids Corner‘ – a full environment that can be controlled by a parent to ensure their children can only play the games or use the applications which are appropriate, without the worry of emails or text messages getting sent by mistake.
To finish off the month, the developer focused Build Conference took place from October 30th to November 2nd – and while I’m still catching up with the tonnes of content made available for free through Channel 9 – I can say that there is no better time to be a Windows Developer. The conference sold out in 53 mins, and included content on many of the new technologies coming from Microsoft including:
- Windows 8 and Windows RT
- Windows Phone 8
- Windows Azure
- Office 365 and Office 2013
- Visual Studio 2012 and Blend 5
- Team Foundation Service
- .NET Framework and ASP.NET updates
- TypeScript Programming Language
Hot on the release of Windows 8, Stephen Sinofsky – the president of the Windows division has announced he will be leaving the company. His successor hasn’t been announced yet, the new Head of Engineering will be Julie Larson-Green of the Office Ribbon fame.
While Sinofsky is definitely a very talented engineer, he has been known to clash heads with a number of other leaders inside the company. This change may bring even more collaboration throughout Microsoft further solidifying their devices and services play for future of computing.
Devices and Services
While the focus on devices and services is new for Microsoft, they’ve actually been building devices for a very long time, and services like Windows Live Messanger (soon to be folded into Skype) and Xbox Live prove that the company has what it takes.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Apple’s new corporate reshuffle will improve their services play, while Google have been getting into hardware in a big way recently. Personally, I can’t wait to see how these three companies battle it out over 2013.