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?