How Microsoft became tech’s good guy

Preston Gralla at Computerworld:

Once upon a time, Microsoft symbolized all that was wrong with the tech world: greedy, monopolistic, single-mindedly focused on profits while caring little about the public good. In the heyday of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, the company ran roughshod over competitors in its attempt to corral the worldwide market for both operating systems and application software.

But today, Microsoft has embraced the role of the tech world’s better angel. And as events show in recent weeks, that’s not hype. The company has, to some extent, tried to act as the industry’s conscience as well as taking actions for the greater good.

Microsoft has somewhat surprisingly fallen off my radar in recent years, but it’s good to see them taking the lead on important issues like fighting Russian cyber-espionage and speaking out against involuntary facial recognition. Our government should be doing more on the former, but don’t get me started on that…

Ballmer on his way out

AP:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who succeeded founder Bill Gates as CEO, will retire within the next 12 months.

The world’s biggest software company did not name a successor.

Microsoft Corp.’s stock shot up 9 percent in premarket trading following the news.

It’s telling that Microsoft made this pre-announcement with no replacement CEO on deck.  Microsoft is still wildly profitable thanks to Windows, Office, and Xbox, but they have gained very little traction in the growth market of mobile with the disastrous reception of Windows Phone and the Surface tablet.  They need someone with strong experience and success in devices and services, and the CEO who oversaw the Zune, the Kin, and Windows Phone is not that guy.

Xbox One

Rob Crossley at the CVG blog dissects the Xbox One launch:

I’m still shocked that, during early Xbox One design meetings – a time when obvious, sprawling and significant changes were occurring across the western household – Microsoft executives decided to bet the house on the future of live TV and cable.

More to the point, it’s frankly staggering that Microsoft observed the modern ways people view cable TV and believed, somehow, that it could add to the experience by getting in the way of it.

The existing consumer demand to interrupt TV with Skype calls, and a hand-gesture controlled Internet Explorer, can only be described as fictional.

I don’t doubt that Microsoft is going to sell a lot of Xbox Ones based on the brand name alone- it’s arguably their most successful product line of the last handful of years.  But forward thinking it’s not.

The Real Reason Windows Phone is Failing

According to Brian S. Hall at readwrite:

The real reason why Windows Phone has failed because there is no good reason for it to exist.

Go on, try to think of one. Think of just one reason – one customer-facing reason – why Windows Phone should exist? Is it better? Cheaper? Faster? Simpler? More secure? More connected?

I was offered an impromptu demo of a Windows Phone by a guy sitting next to me on the subway yesterday as he swiped his way through the different built-in apps, and while it offered plenty of text-based eye candy it didn’t seem to add a lot of “new” value to what we already have from iOS and Android.  If anything, navigation didn’t seem obvious: he tapped on blank parts of the screen to go back, and swiped across lines of text to reveal a longer message.

It is certainly smooth and graceful looking, but I can’t say “yes” to any of Hall’s questions above.