/ Technology

Has Microsoft turned a corner?

Microsoft stand at Expo

It’s all too easy to slag off Microsoft, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. But have things changed recently? Windows Phone 7, Internet Explorer 9, Xbox Kinect… Microsoft looks like it might be on a roll.

Yes, I know, the Windows Vista comment was a cheap jibe – Microsoft fixed all those bugs a few years later in Windows 7. See, it’s hard for me to be positive about a company that hasn’t always delivered what I’ve wanted.

But perhaps Microsoft’s turned a corner? The Googles and Apples of this world may have beaten Micosoft to your mobile, but it might actually be onto something good with Windows Phone 7.

A year ago, while recording a video review of a sluggish Windows Mobile handset (which the manufacturer claimed was utterly revolutionary) I formulated the theory to “never work with children, animals… or Windows mobiles”.

But first impressions of Microsoft’s next-generation mobile software are good. It’s actually innovative, rather than a cobbled together version of Windows shoehorned into a handset.

Microsoft gets its game on with Internet Explorer

And having taken a look at Microsoft’s latest web browser, the beta of Internet Explorer 9, I can also report good things. Browsers might not set your heart racing, but IE9’s rendering speed, simple interface and compliance with the latest web standards are all compelling reasons not to automatically install rivals Firefox or Google Chrome.

Apparently two million people downloaded IE9 in 48 hours. Good going, Microsoft! It’s time to reverse the decline, as Microsoft’s seen its browser market share decline from 2004’s 91% to just 60% today.

What’s next? Gaming. Again, Microsoft is on the money with its Kinect motion-sensing add-on for the Xbox 360. Rather than merely taking the route headed up by Nintendo’s Wii, and now lamely followed by Sony’s PlayStation Move, Kinect looks genuinely innovative – tracking your body for a controller-less gaming experience.

Microsoft’s Zune is a little out of tune

On to music, and the story is slightly different. Microsoft still seems to think it’s worth chasing Apple by dreaming up alternatives to the iPod and iTunes. While the Zune hardware never actually made it to UK shores, Microsoft’s persevering with its Zune entertainment service.

This multi-platform enterprise will run on Windows Phones, Windows PCs and Xbox 360s, and is further supported by Microsoft’s answer to Spotify – Zune Pass. This sounds good until you find out that once you stop subscribing to Zune Pass, all your downloads will be deleted.

Plus, it’s likely your Windows Phone media will be locked into the Zune service as well. Not the open and inclusive approach I’d like to see from Microsoft in 2010.

So the jury’s out. Windows 7 hasn’t popped up with any random security alerts in the time it’s taken me to write this. Kinect does look rather intriguing, and I’ll reserve judgment on Windows Phone until it’s finally released. Of course, there’s still time for Microsoft to screw up its latest innovations. What do you reckon?

Comments
Guest

Nah, I really wish everyone would stop trying to praise MS or its latest products. The only thing they are effectively doing is stretching themselves to thin. Kinect is a joke that does nothing but stab loyal 360 owners in the back, by shifting the consoles image to one similar to the Wii and we all know what most gamers think of Wii and its games. Also why does it seem so many UK editors are writing positive MS articles? What, MS buy the entire country or something?

Guest

How is kinect stabbing you in the back? Were you clamoring for motion controls before they announced kinect?

if its not for you, don’t buy it, but to say its stabbing loyal 360 people in the back is ridiculous. there will be people who buy it to have a wii like experience and there will be people who don’t.

i fail to see the issue. Kinect will get better over time as they refine the software – to me motion controls are irrelevant but to others they will love it. Pricing is an issue though i will agree on with anyone.

Guest
Daverage... says:
27 September 2010

Kinect will sell like **** and there is no buzz…..and basically no exclusives for like the next two years truth is their gaming brand is dying or about to launch a new console

Guest
joostin says:
27 September 2010

Well Sony has released developer videos of the Move in WiP stages from 2001. This is before Nintendo even started their development of the Wii. The EyeToy and then the PSEye have both been controller-less alternatives for gaming on a Sony machine. We have seen them for the past decade and know that they are good for nothing more than casual games. Your ability to research and write an opinionated article has been demonstrated quite well….that is not a compliment.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

In fear of shamelessly pushing my own article in Al’s post, I point you to my post on PlayStation Move https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/why-playstation-move-wiis-all-over-nintendo/

Although Kinect’s controller-less experience isn’t entirely new, it’s certainly innovative in its approach and technology. PSEye can’t really pull off what it can. But Move, to me, is certainly the more accurate technology out of all of the motion control gaming peripherals.

Guest
Clemens says:
28 September 2010

@Patrick Steen: You mean the accuracy of re-calibrating every game? And if you don’t calibrate it right that it’s not working as it should? So you need to re-calibrate again?

Profile photo of Al Warman
Guest

Let’s not focus entirely on debating Microsoft’s ability or inability to revolutionise the gaming market. Which idea came first, the Wii or Move, isn’t too relevant to this!

What this article is attempting to convey is that, until recently, I would barely have considered choosing a Microsoft product over its rivals. Android, Firefox and Spotify were no-brainers for me.

Hence my surprise that Microsoft has now started releasing products that could actually tempt me to give them a try. I’ll leave my brand loyalties at the door: if (and it’s still a big ‘if’) IE9 is the fastest, most secure, feature-rich browser then I will use it.

If Windows Phone 7 turns out to be as good as initial experience suggests, I may jump ship from Android and iPhone.

If Kinect turns out to be fun and accurate and has enough good games to persuade me to upgrade from my Wii, then it will be on my Christmas list.

Guest

wtf is wrong with vista!?! ive been using it for 2 years and have never had a crash or glitch, seriously i dont get it

Guest
KT Chong says:
27 September 2010

Windows 7 redeems Microsoft of the Vista fiasco. Widows 7 is actually better than Leopard. It’s the only good consumer product that Microsoft currently offers.

Xbox 360 is doing well in North America, but I wouldn’t get one. As a gamer, I see Xbox 360 as a less attractive gaming platform than PS3, Wii and PC. Xbox 360 has developed a poor reputation in terms of build and quality. I just don’t want to deal with a product with quality problems.

In addition, Xbox 360 really has no compelling “A-list” exclusives other than Halo and Gears of War, both are alien shooter. Mass Effect would have been a reason for me to get an Xbox 360, but it was also available on the PC and will be available on the PS3. In short, “Xbox 360 has no exclusive,” — it’s just Halo, Halo, more Halo, and Gears of Wars. (Fable is a B-rated series at best.) Xbox 360 really needs more and a better variety of exclusives (that are NOT also on the PC.)

Zune is an embarrassment. I’d rather be seen with a cheap Chinese knock-off MP3 player than Zune; at least people wouldn’t recognize the Chinese knock-off. That is the real problem with Zune: being seen with Zune is an embarrassment. Zune is un-hip and un-cool. It’s the antithesis of an Apple product. Microsoft has to pay me to be seen in the public with a Zune, yet a Zune costs as much as an iPod.

Not really interested in the Windows Mobile 7. The choices are either iPhone or Android. WinMo 7 is too late, too little. The same applies to Windows Tablet.

Guest
Colossus says:
27 September 2010

Seriously, you don’t know xbox360’s library…Where are that games on pc? Lost odyssey, Alan Wake, Blue dragon, Mushimesama futari, Deathsmiles, Limbo, Magna carta 2, Banjo Nuts and bolts, Kameo, Gears of war 2, etc…Answer: Nowhere.
Thats a variety of good exclusives…Anyway, if you are a gamer, the 360 is for you, if a blind hater jaelous guy crying like a kid, its’ another choice.

The quality is good with 360 S. No problem with that.

Haters gonna hate.

Guest

So its lame that the move is an advanced version of the wii, but its cool to rip off ipod, itunes, iphone ect.. with MS’s zune line and WM7?

I don’t understand this kind of logic.

Guest
anon707 says:
28 September 2010

I don’t know about WM7, but I know Kinect largely fails to impress (extremely demanding requirements, total lack of quality games, high price) and personally I’m not too fond of Internet Explorer 9. I’ll stick to Chrome or Firefox. Though you didn’t mention it, Bing, in my opinion, is trash. Windows 7 turned out good, thankfully, but on most other fronts it seems to be slipping. No comment on the Zune, either. Haven’t seen one in years but last time I saw it it seemed like a decent alternative to the iPod.

Guest

Wow talk about a opinion peice. The writer makes these bold statement and has no proof to back it up.
Sony is lame ripping off the Wii. Really? However MC is brilliant for ripping off Apple products and Nintendo… that makes a lot of sense. Sorry but the author of this article sound like a massive MC fan.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

Thanks for your comment SPIKU. But to be fair – it is an opinion piece. Plus, Al is quite scathing about Zune.

Guest

As I’m not into gaming (the Xbox 360 being the only decent Microsoft product), I would never buy anything that Microsoft produces.

Guest
Andrew says:
28 September 2010

Sorry but as a long time Msoft user Windows 7 isnt any good yet (or should I say none of the other software manufacturers have changed their programs to work with it). Most of us have switched off the User protection settings as they just dont work, at work we had to downgrade 4 new machines back to xp to get them to work with SBS 2008,. Or you can have my macbook pro which works… it doesnt do anything else but my goodness its good to have something which actually works!

Guest
Frank Byford says:
31 January 2015

Granted, the kinect was a massive hit and I like it alot but (and it’s a big but) they are now failing the gaming world as an alrounder with the late 2014 early 2015 releases. As for ANY windows phones, ive seen pictures of massive piles of them at landfill sites so no Microsoft aren’t turn corners. If anything they’re turn heads away with false hopes and empty promises through miss leading advertising……………..Microsoft are going to crash and burn, fact!