You can always tell when Fall in the US has arrived; the leaves begin to fall, the smell of pumpkin pie fills the air, and the beeps and flashing of new gadgets come to life in the stores. This year is no different with huge releases by Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Nokia, Nintendo, and a number of other manufacturers. In years past, the holiday season never seemed to be so packed full of gadgets trying to fight for your attention and more importantly your dollars.
Microsoft has been very busy this Fall with releasing a number of different products: from software to new hardware. While Microsoft is typically known for their software, they have been slowly investing in a complete ecosystem that stretches from the office to the home; prodictivity and entertainment. You most likely utilize Windows and Office at the work and even at home, but that is not where the stretch of Microsoft ends.
Over the years, Microsoft has been working on expanding its ecosystem to go beyond just productivity and that means focusing on entertainment. While it has not always spelled success for Microsoft, it has laid the foundation for improvements to Windows and even the introduction of the Xbox over 10 years ago.
This Fall, Microsoft has rolled out a number of services and new products that expand its portfolio. While all might not be an instant or as successful as those on the market before, they provide a foundation for what is possible in the future.
- Windows 8 - Introduces a single platform that allows developers to create cross-platform applications and be able to exchange information seamlessly between devices. Windows 8 runs on desktops utilizing Intel and AMD 32- and 64-bit processors, phones and tablets running 32-bit ARM processors. (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/home)
- Microsoft Surface - The first interation of the hardware is designed for Windows RT, which is based on Windows 8 but for ARM processors. The target audience for this device, is those that want a mix of productivity and entertainment, and do not need to worry about running "legacy" software that was designed for x86/x64 processors. Similar to an Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy, the Surface utilizes a marketplace to purchase and download Windows Store apps. Unlike the iPad and Galaxy though, the same apps can be ran on a laptop or desktop running Windows 8. (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/microsoft-surface)
- Xbox Music - An application/service that works across the entire Microsoft ecosystem. Buy misic from one device, lets say a desktop and then access it from your Xbox or Surface. The service also allows you to stream music as well in a similar fashion to Spotify. Xbox Music is a standard feature of Windows 8. (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/entertainment/music)
- MS Office 2013 - Next version of MS Office and is currently available as a preview. As some might not know, Surface comes with a version of MS Office 2013 that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. While not a complete version of Office on Surface, it provides most of the creation and editing tools taht you are already familiar with in MS Office 2010. (http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en/)
- Visual Studio 2012 - Latest version of Visual Studio that allows you to develop applications that take advantage of .NET Framework 4.5 and create applications for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Store apps. (http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/eng/)
- Skype - An improved service along with applications that are on virtually every device on the market; from smart/Internet-enabled TVs to phones and computers. (http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home)
As I get time, I will share more detailed thoughts and comments on some of the products and services that Microsoft has recently released. From what I can tell, Microsoft is focused on creating a connected and complete ecosystem across all its software and hardware platforms. This unifiied platform and all encompassing ecosystem is for the most part a one of a kind, and will be interesting to see if it is what people are looking for or if it is simply ahead of its time.
Let me know what your thoughts are on Microsoft's direction. It is a bit early to tell since new OSs and ecosystems take time to unfold at times especially when people might want to participate in the ecosystem but cannot because of phone contracts, fear that it will not run on their current hardware, or simply disruptions in daily habits and workflow.