For Microsoft, 2017 was a mixed year. The stellar performance of Azure and Office 365, the release of Xbox One X and Windows Mixed Reality devices, and two major updates to Windows 10 are some of the achievements notched by the tech giant last year.
At the same time, it floundered in the mobile sector, with its Windows 10 phone in “maintenance mode” now. As a result, Microsoft is pretty much out of competition in the lucrative mobile sector.
Also, there’s quite a bit of catching to do. Even with all the hype around Xbox One X, Microsoft still lags behind Sony in the video games industry. Likewise, Azure has quite some distance to cover to catch up with AWS. Though Microsoft is making money, being the second in both these promising areas, it sure needs to do more to become the market leader. After all, what’s the fun in being the second best, even if you’re able to generate substantial revenue?
All this means 2018 is an important year for Microsoft to find direction and to establish itself as a leader in one or more of these tech sectors.
So, what can we expect from Microsoft in 2018? Will it be new devices, updates, services, or what?
Let’s take a look at what Microsoft is planning for this year.
Windows 10 updates
Like in 2017, we can expect two updates to Windows 10 this year too. Both these updates will focus on improving productivity within Windows 10. Already, features like timeline and cloud clipboard have helped make Windows 10 more useful, and we can expect the same momentum in 2018’s versions too.
Keeping in tune with this trend, Microsoft may announce more such features like window sets. This feature will help you navigate across different open applications with a tab. To explain this feature, Microsoft gives the example of a college student working on a paper. She will have a Word document, a browser with a few pages, and OneNote open. She can move from Word to the browser with a tab and likewise to OneNote. Microsoft believes this will reduce the time it takes to navigate across open applications.
Besides these new features, Microsoft will also clean-up its UI in these 2018 versions. In fact, it’s about time it removes some legacy applications and design and replace it with a minimalistic design approach.
New UI interface for Cortana
The next thing we can expect from Microsoft is a conversational user interface for Cortana. Though voice commands are good, it’s still nice to have the option to type what you want to your virtual assistant. In all likelihood, we’ll use the text option more than voice simply because we use our phone keypads really a lot through the day.
Recently, Google filled this need with its Google Assistant that can take both voice and text commands. Likewise, we can expect a text UI for Cortana soon. This way, your voice message will show up as text too, and Cortana will reply back with her voice and text as well.
We may also see a distinction between Cortana and the search function in Windows phone. We expect Cortana to be moved to the Action Center, thereby leaving the search bar only for search queries.
Overall, it’s been quite some time since we saw any updates to Cortana, so hopefully, we will see something more in 2018. Maybe even a new-look Cortana?
Microsoft Office 2019
Microsoft has already announced that it would be releasing Office 2019 in the second half of 2018, so there’s no surprise here. Over the last few years, Microsoft had placed a lot of emphasis on Office 365, so it’ll be nice to see a new perpetual version for on-premises use.
According to a post by Jared Spataro, the general manager for Office, the new Office version will have new capabilities to allow users to work naturally. There will be options for formulas and charts to make Excel a powerful tool for today’s business environment. Also, visual animation features such as Morph and Zoom will add a professional touch to PowerPoint. There will also be a few server enhancements, especially in the areas of IT manageability, voice, security, and usability.
There’s much talk about Andromeda on the web. According to Windows Central, this is a foldable tablet that runs on Windows 10 built with Windows OS care and CShell to provide the folding form.
If Microsoft releases this product, it could be a game-changer in the mobile world as this device can switch between a tablet and a phone. Also, it could resurrect Microsoft’s hopes of having any kind of market share in the mobile world, considering that it has put Windows 10 mobile on the backburner.
It is also rumored to provide digital inking experience for users.
If this device is released just the way it is expected, it could transform the world of mobile devices and could give Microsoft a big lead over its competitors.
Xbox One X was a significant release for Microsoft last year as it introduced the next-generation console early in the cycle. That said, there are not many games available now to help users make the most of this console.
This is why we can expect a few games from Microsoft this year. E3 2018, the annual mega-gaming event, is scheduled in June and we can see some huge announcements during this expo. Already, the Internet is rife with rumors about a game called Forza Horizon 4. Let’s see if Microsoft makes it official. In fact, this event could be exciting if Microsoft announces games for its powerful console.
Progressive web apps
Microsoft’s lack of support for Windows mobile means a slow death for its Universal Windows platform. Without a mobile counterpart, the apps associated with this Windows platform have no meaning.
To counter this, we can expect Microsoft to move toward progressive web apps. These progressive apps are web-based, compatible with any browser, and have the same responsiveness on all devices. Microsoft has already made it clear that it will push these progressive web apps in a big way, and will even have them in the Microsoft store.
This move is likely to give a new path for those apps and developers who earlier depended on the universal Windows platform. In this sense, all is not lost for Microsoft app developers. In fact, this move could enthuse them to create apps that have a universal appeal.
Besides all these tested areas, we can also expect some surprises from Microsoft in the areas of AI, bots, IoT, and blockchain. Though all these buzzwords have created a lot of hype, they haven’t really translated into meaningful applications that could benefit the common man.
Let’s hope Microsoft takes the lead in these areas and comes up with applications that all of us can benefit from.
In all, it’s an exciting year for Microsoft and its followers. This tech giant is expected to come up with products that can have a considerable impact on the society, as a whole. At the same time, 2018 could help Microsoft as a company to reverse its bad decisions and set the stage for a productive future.