Nothing in life has any business being perfect. When taken in context, 2013 for Microsoft has been a country mile better than the previous year. While the launch of Windows 8 brought with it an air of unpredictability, these past few months were all about stability and consolidation.
We took a look at some of the biggest Microsoft moments, now it is time to go over some regrets — things that could have been or should not have been.
Avoiding something in hindsight is leisurely, but it is a different ball game when making weighty decisions at breakneck speeds. Decisions that, mind you, can potentially have severe and enduing effects. Just bring up the Windows Vista debacle if you get a chance to talk to Steve Ballmer.
Regardless, here is a bit of a reflective look at some of the lowlights of the year:
Dude, Where’s My Windows Phone Blue?
The year started with the gossip that Microsoft was ready to undertake a companywide initiative dubbed Windows Blue — one that was to bring feature-rich updates to pretty much all its current platforms. Things, for the most part, went according to plan.
For the most part.
While the desktop, tablet and server versions of Windows received these updates, Windows Phone 8.1 got lost in the mist due to unforeseen circumstances (read testing and carrier delays). That is not to say the company did not revise its mobile operating platform once or twice. But the dream of seeing all versions of Windows getting refreshed at the same time remains just that for now.
You can also pin it down to the fact that Windows Phone Blue is set to bring a whole plethora of features, from a notifications center to a voice-operated digital assistant. Fans of the platform will, nevertheless, have to wait until the middle of 2014 to get their hands on these goodies.
Microsoft may have wanted nothing more than to see touchscreen usage takeoff to extraordinary heights. This obviously was cited as one of the bigger reasons why Windows 8 failed to ignite right out of the gates. As things stand, though, Windows users on tablets seem to be more than convinced, it is the traditional user base on desktops and laptops that still needs to be swayed.
Ultimately this has got more to do with market dynamics and user preferences than what Microsoft as a company could have done. It tried its best in presenting the benefits that touchscreen bring to the computing experience to end users via marketing, ads and commercials.
But then again, maybe this is something that will sort itself out with time. Most things do.
The ARM Conundrum
What, more words? On this? Much has been said and written, and yet lot unsaid and unwritten. But this was the year that Microsoft partners bid adieu the Windows on ARM platform — well most of them anyway. While initially Dell seemed ready to create new hardware for the Windows RT platform, at the end of the year, Microsoft was only joined by Nokia in the fight to popularize the architecture.
It is worth mentioning here that the apps issue, the biggest issue that kept people away from Windows RT is on the mend. The Windows Store houses countless apps that work on ARM, and newer optimized processors from Qualcomm and Nvidia meant that performance hiccups are now a thing of the past.
Still, for what it’s worth, Microsoft still stands by Windows RT wholeheartedly. And with talks that the company may end up offering the platform for free to OEMs, a renaissance is not exactly discounted.
The Menu That Could Have Returned
Part of the deal of listening to consumer feedback is acting upon it. Microsoft may have brought back the Start Button in some capacity in Windows 8.1 (and expanded the right-click pop up menu), but the company did not really reinstate the classic Start Menu, as some wanted.
Now, however, there are murmurs that Microsoft is contemplating bringing the Start Menu back, though in what form we know not. It could be a straight and simple return, or it could be a revamped version that makes use of some Modern UI bells and whistles. Either way, people in the know claim that this feature is set for homecoming with either the Spring GDR update or Windows 8.2.
If it is the former, a return of the one included with Windows 7, it does beg the question, why wait so long in the first place — why wait at all, and not include it with Windows 8.1, more so when with the retirement of Windows XP coming up. Speaking of which…
The OS That Leapt Through Time
It is remarkable to think that Windows XP is around 12 years old, and still going strong. The notion gets even more interesting when taken in context with the fact that mainstream computing really only dawned some two decades back. And for a computer operating system to last this long (half this time), and in this capacity is as extraordinary as it is concerning.
Not only does Microsoft have to set aside resources and development time for patching up the old operating system and closing newly discovered security holes, this breakup in cycle of upgrading is also having an effect on overall hardware and software sale. As of right now, despite Redmond’s best intentions (and efforts), Windows XP still has an install base two or three times that of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Combined.
And when you consider that an overwhelming majority of these users are financial and educational institutes, industrial and commercial users, businesses large and small, then the security outlook becomes that much bleak. With just four months now remaining in retirement, fingers crossed we do not have an unfortunately accident on our hands after April 8, 2014.
A Surface Named Mini
With their 7 and 8 inch solutions almost perfected, competitors are now looking towards Maxi versions of their tablets. But that is not yet the case for Microsoft, far from it. The second generation Surface tablets almost bring the whole package in a perfect sized package that is neither too small, nor too big.
But both the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 lack cellular connectivity. And they lack that added portability.
There is something about smaller slates that can be lugged around without much hassle. And there is something about smaller slates that come with an affordable price tag. Add two and two together, and you end up with a Surface branded tablet that retails for around $250 — a potential bona fide hit.
However, even though Microsoft missed the boat this season, the company has hinted that it is working on smaller form factors and such tablets could arrive early next year alongside the GDR Update to the Windows 8.1 operating platform. The world can hardly wait.
I can probably throw in one, maybe two more disappointments, but I think it is best if we turn it over to you guys. What have been the most glaring miscues in your opinion?
Anything that left you disappointed? Anything that you felt could have been better handled?