Here are five reasons Microsoft is awesome.
Microsoft ResearchMicrosoft Research is huge. More than 1,000 scientists and engineers — including winners of some of the most prestigious prizes in physics, computer science and mathematics — develop new ideas and try to solve global challenges with the use of technology. Unlike many companies, Microsoft’s research department is not just interested in ways to improve their products now; Microsoft Research works with academics all over the world on real scientific challenges.
Microsoft Research is involved in many diverse areas. They’ve worked on everything from turning first-person action camera footage into smooth hyperlapses to preventing the spread of HIV and pneumonia. They are even beating Google in the Artificial Intelligence race.
If a problem can be approached with technology and computers, there’s a good chance someone in Microsoft Research is working on it. That is pretty awesome.
Innovative ProductsMicrosoft continues to create some of the most innovative products around. They have a long history of building things before their time, only for another company to improve on their work at a later date and succeed. If you can stick a smart in front of it, Microsoft has developed it in the past: smartphones, smart TVs, smart watches and tablets have all been preceded by Microsoft products that came too early.
Even when the time seems right, Microsoft has been burned for being tooinnovative. The Xbox One is a really great game console. Microsoft’s original vision would have made it even better.
When Microsoft announced the Xbox One, they planned to make all the games you bought digital, whether you downloaded them or bought a physical disk. The game would be assigned to your Xbox Live account. If you bought a disk but lost or broke it, it wouldn’t matter, you could just download the game from the Xbox Live Store. The tyranny of scratched games would be over!
Lending your friends games and sharing them between families were all going to be possible with Xbox Live features. You wouldn’t, however, be able to resell your second hand disks. The copy of the game would be permanently linked to your account. For me, and also my colleague Matt this was a fair trade off; to a horde of Internet commenters it wasn’t. Microsoft backed off.
The big issue is that physical media is going the way of the dodo anyway. No current Apple product comes with a built in disk drive. Large software vendors like Adobe are following suit killing off physical media in favour of digital downloads. Microsoft was just bringing this, along with improvements, to the gaming market.
Regardless of the levels of success they’ve obtained, almost everything Microsoft has brought to market has been innovative. The original Xbox, Xbox 360, Surface and Microsoft Azure have all changed the product categories they entered.
Innovative DesignMicrosoft has pioneered some innovative software designs. Despite not reaching wide commercial success Windows Phone is a great product. It managed to be beautiful and modern at a time when Apple was still heavily invested in faux-leather and baize. While iOS is back on par with Windows Phone, Android still lags behind with horrendous vendor skins layered on top of an already ugly operating system.
Windows 8 was the same. A beautiful design created to bridge the gap between tablets and PCs. With Windows 8 you’re able to have the same user experience on every computing device you own. Unfortunately, Microsoft had the same problem as they did with the Xbox One: being too innovative. Poor adoption and consumer backlash have cause Microsoft to pull back on this vision in the upcoming Windows 10.
Innovation does not necessarily imply success. With new things, Microsoft has always been innovative, but not always successful. Their continued willingness to push despite failing in the past is awesome.
Universal SoftwareMicrosoft Office is a must have if you are serious about business, or work in a large office. While you can substitute Microsoft’s Office suite for personal use, Microsoft’s business applications continue to dominate for professional purposes.
Not only is Microsoft Office universal, it’s also awesome. For example, Excel is a powerful tool with which you can do a long list of amazing things; it’s even possible to make an RPG.
Backwards CompatibilityMicrosoft is a massively innovative and forward thinking company, but they also think backwards. No other software company offers the level of backwards compatibility that Microsoft do. Writing on Quora, senior software engineer Nate Waddoups describes the effort Microsoft puts into ensuring that new updates don’t break compatibility with old software:
The Windows team invests a mind-boggling amount of time, hardware, and people into maintaining compatibility. There are bugs in Windows that could have been fixed years ago, but can’t be, because that would break applications that (deliberately or accidentally) depend on those bugs.The fact you can run some of your old PC games on a Windows 8 laptop with no issues, let alone your important legacy business software, is pretty damn awesome.
Bonus: They ListenNot many tech companies solicit feedback from their customers. Apple, for example, is famously infuriating to communicate with. On the other hand, Microsoft is actively seeking customer feedback. They’ve learnt from high-profile missteps and they want your help to make better products. A tech company letting you have your say? That’s awesome.
What do you think; have I missed a reason Microsoft is awesome or am I totally wrong? Let me know in the comments.