Love it or hate it, Microsoft is a company that brings out strong emotions in just about every IT professional. With 2011 about to end, it is time for our picks of some of smartest moves this powerful software company made this year - and some of the moves we'd say were not so bright.
Five Smart Things:
1. Going radical with Windows 8.
If Microsoft wants Windows to remain a consumer favorite it has to break lose of the one thing that has been both its biggest strength and biggest weakness: backwards compatibility of aging Windows software. While it's amazing that that users can still run 16-bit Windows apps developed for Windows 3.1 on their Windows 7 machines, the need to support this decrepit population of old Windows apps has also strangled Windows ability to remake itself. With Windows 8, Windows 7 apps will remain compatible on Intel-based PCs, but a whole new crop will be created for the new Metro-style UI. The trade-off in asking people to ditch their ancient software is that Windows 8 apps promise to be much less-expensive -- more in line with smartphone app prices than traditional fat client prices. Its an interesting choice for Microsoft to make its next operating system geared for tablets and able to stretch up to the PC, rather than using Apple's model and lumping the tablet with the smartphone. The client is undergoing a radical change as part of the move to cloud computing, and its smart that Microsoft is willing to let Windows change, too.
2. Taking down botnets.
In 2011, Microsoft continued on its spam fighting mission by taking down Botnets. By petitioning U.S. courts to shut down Internet domains, Microsoft was able to put the squeeze on the Kelihos and Rustock botnets just as it had hampered the Waledac in 2010.
3. Buying Skype
At $8.5 billion, Microsoft's buy of Skype was one of the largest acquisitions in the software industry this year. While it remains a little mysterious as to why Microsoft wanted Skype when it already had Lync, Skype gives Microsoft instant access to a broad base of consumers eager to IM, chat, and videoconference across their work PCs, game consoles and smartphones. During the acquisition press conference, Steve Ballmer promised that Skype would continue to be supported on all devices, Windows and otherwise. Shortly before the deal closed the Skype team wanted to prove that this would be so. It feverishly addressed the biggest complaint against it -- a lack of support for video calls on most Android devices. Over the summer, Skype added video support to a slew of Android devices including Motorola Android models and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Skype may help teach Microsoft why there are benefits in a software company being platform agnostic. Then again, Microsoft gained about 50 communication patents with Skype, so it could also help Microsoft in its battle to tax the emerging Android/Linux-based smartphone market.
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