The Satya Nadella era was boldly stamped in 2016, as Microsoft’s chief executive led the tech giant through a year filled with highs, lows, wows, oops, and WTFs. Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong for Microsoft last year.
Skype Translator: A leap forward in digital communications
Real-time voice translation – now that’s what differentiates an instant messenger service! Skype Translator is a massive leap in digital communication, and it promises to be a means of bringing down language barriers throughout the world with its real-time language translation and conversion capabilities. But can it translate why Jurassic World was so awful in 2015? Probably not.
Though the launch was announced in October 2015, the Skype Translator really got its wings in 2016, and in March 2016 the API was made publicly available for businesses to use for their custom apps. This was for adding speech translation capability. By the end of the year, Skype translator supported eight languages for voice calls and more than 50 for instant messaging. And, with machine learning at its core, it gets better every day. No, it cannot make you a blueberry muffin. You need to do that yourself.
Windows 10 upgrade slowdown: Microsoft resorts to ridiculous tactics
When the Windows 10 freebie upgrade offer ended in July, the number of people migrating to the operating system slowed considerably. But even before the offer ended, Microsoft resorted to strong-arm tactics in the form of annoying prompts and warnings trying to get people to upgrade. Not wise, Microsoft!
- In January, Microsoft declared that Intel Skylake processor users would need to upgrade to Windows 10 in the subsequent 18 months to receive complete security patches and upgrades.
- Several users reported that they never touched the “upgrade to Windows 10” popups they saw on their screens, yet the system upgraded! Well at least their computers did not blow up on them like those personal computers blew up on those programmers in Die Hard 4!
- In February 2016, Microsoft even pushed Windows 10 as a Recommended Update, catching several legacy Microsoft OS users unaware. You have to communicate a little better than that, Microsoft!
- A California travel agent took the company to court saying a botched Windows 10 update made a mess of her small business computer. Microsoft paid her $10,000 in compensation. Lawsuits are no big deal for tech giants the size of Microsoft. But this one was nothing short of a face-palm for everyone involved in Microsoft’s Windows 10 Upgrade tactics for 2016.
Linux Bash’s inclusion in Windows 10
Looks like everyone’s serious about making open source the “way forward.” At least that’s the message that boomed in Microsoft’s March 2016 Build Developer Conference keynote. Though Linux has never placed itself as a competitor, Microsoft has not historically shied away from pulling the open source OS down. However, it was nothing short of early Christmas for open-source lovers when Microsoft announced that Linux command line tool Bash was on its way to inclusion in Windows 10.
What more, it’s not a virtual machine or emulation. Microsoft has joined hands with Canonical to build Ubuntu binaries right into Windows 10 to make Bash run. This is right in line with events such as Microsoft adopting Red Hat for Azure, and getting SQL Server and Visual Studio to Linux.
Lumia abandoned: Is Microsoft admitting defeat on its Windows Phone platform?
Remember the money Microsoft paid in 2013 to buy Nokia’s phone business (notably, the Lumia line of smartphones)? If you don’t remember, it was $7.2 billion. It seems that after being on life support for close to three years, the end is near for Lumia. All through 2016, we saw several signs of Microsoft giving up on Lumia. It started with the closing of social media accounts linked to the product and the UK Microsoft online shop remaining “out of stock” on Lumia phones.
Windows Phones, in general, have always lagged the big boys (Android and iOS). At one point, Microsoft pinned its hopes on Lumia for a fortune reversal, so it’s sad that 2016 will be remembered as the year when Microsoft all but conceded that the Windows Phone smartphone platform had failed. As the year ended, rumors continued to swirl that Microsoft would ditch the Windows Phone completely in favor of a Surface Phone series.
Projects Astoria and Centennial: A bridge too far
Let’s take you back in time to Microsoft's 2015 Build Developer Conference, where the company announced “bridges” that promised to bring the best Android and iOS software to Microsoft Universal Windows Platform (UWP). But announcing bridges proved easier than building them. By February 2016, Microsoft said the Android bridge -- known as Project Astoria -- was dead. Sort of like all those Gotham Bridges that were blown up in Batman III by Bane’s contractors.
In 2016, Microsoft announced Project Centennial, a bridge between Win32 and Windows apps. However, that bridge came up short, with little more than Evernote, which popped up in September 2016. Meanwhile, Microsoft bought a company called Xamarin, which will have all the capabilities of Projects Astoria, Centennial, and Islandwood (the iOS bridge).
Microsoft Flow: IFTTT service that helps you do more
In 2015, there was massive buzz around the IFTTT (If This Then That) programming concept, but not many game-changing apps or services made it to any of the app stores. But in 2016, Microsoft gathered more eyeballs than anyone with its Flow service.
Flow creates condition-based connections between several applications, helping solve business problems, bringing efficiencies into multi-application processes, and enhancing user experiences.
Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, Office 365, OneDrive, SharePoint – all are on-board the Flow service. So you can achieve automations as simple as getting a notification on receiving an email from a specific person, to more sophisticated aspects such as collating a day’s tweets into your Office application, or receiving a notification on Slack when a file is uploaded to Dropbox.
Let’s remember these big moments from 2016, because all these significant wins and losses are going to have a major impact on the success of the mercurial giant tech in 2017.
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