Saturday, May 30, 2015

Family Tech: Microsoft: Not your father’s company anymore - May 29, 2015

There is a high-tech company out there aggressively building new products for IOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows. They are acquiring exciting new companies that publish apps for some of these platforms.

They are building a way for PC owners to run some iPhone and Android apps on their PCs. They are making it possible for developers to write one app that will run on Windows, Xbox One, and Windows Phones.

They are taking risks with their long-standing cash cows and astonishing long-time watchers of the company. They are doing things that one would think would make the company’s founder roll over in his grave, if he wasn’t very much alive.

They are planning on giving away a new product that will replace Windows 7 and Windows 8. You will want it.

What is this dynamic, risk-taking company? Is it some new startup? No, it’s Microsoft. Yet, it isn’t your father’s Microsoft.The 40-year-old company is changing.

Founder Bill Gates remains on the board of Microsoft, but spends much of his time now with the foundation he and his wife began.

Gate’s college friend, Steve Ballmer, has retired as chief executive officer. I never thought of Ballmer as a visionary. He spent his time jealously guarding Microsoft’s big cash cows: Windows and Office.

In February 2014, Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s CEO. He came out of its Cloud Computing division, one of the newest, more forward thinking divisions.

Sometime this summer, Microsoft will release Windows 10, its newest, and they say, its final operating system.

From now on, it says it says there will not be new Windows operating system, just downloadable upgrades to Windows 10. Details are still sketchy about when Windows 10 is coming, and if any of the operating systems prior to Windows 7 will be upgradeable for free.

Windows 10 has been out for a while as a Beta program. I’ve been running it in a Virtual Machine so that it has not taken over my entire PC.

I’ll have a future column with fuller details about Windows 10 when it is announced.

Microsoft has made some other un-Microsoft moves in the last couple years. It has moved away from Office as a product you purchase, and which they sell as upgrades periodically. Instead, its Office 365 is a subscription product which you pay for each year and automatically have upgrades when you need them.

A one-year subscription lets you put it on up to five devices. It includes a full terabyte of online storage on Microsoft’s OneDrive service. In fact, it wants to store new documents on OneDrive by default. That does make your files available from anywhere you have web access, including your smartphone.

And OneDrive is priced competitively against offerings from Google and Dropbox.

Microsoft recently purchased the Sunrise calendar app that runs on iPhones, iPads and Android phones, but not Windows phones. Well, not yet anyway.

I’ve been using Sunrise for a few days now and am favorably impressed. Before Sunrise, to see what my day entailed, I had to look at my Google Calendar, my to-do task list in Wunderlist and longer term reminders which I had in Evernote.

Sunrise pulls all those reminders together and can include reminders from many more apps. Next, I’ll be typing it to TripIt, an app that keeps up with pending flights I’ve booked.

All this information is displayed on my Android phone, an iPad and in my web browser.

There was a time when Microsoft was not keen on products that ran on non-Microsoft platforms. Nadella seems to have moved them past that.

Microsoft has also been showing experimental products for the first time by demonstrating a new augmented reality headset.

Unlike the Facebook-owned Occulus Rift, the Microsoft HoloLens does not create an all new reality, but adds things to our reality. For example, a mechanic working on a complex jet engine would see the engine clearly, but HoloLens would superimpose identifiers and other information over what the mechanic was seeing.

Virtual Reality, like Rift, completely replaces reality with a computer-generated reality for gaming or exploring a made-up world. Both kinds of devices have their place. A release date for HoloLens has not been announced.

By publicly experimenting as they are with HoloLens and producing products for platforms other than Windows – sometimes releasing them on Windows only after other platforms have a product – Microsoft is reinventing itself.

Links for this column are here.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, great article! I've worked at Microsoft for over 20 years. The excitement over the changes that Satya has brought to Microsoft are perhaps the most significant that long-time employees can ever remember. The future looks bright - it is awesome to see articles like this where the press is taking note as well.


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