Long before Apple launched the iPad, or Microsoft considered porting Windows 8 onto tablets, various OEMs loaded Windows XP onto the tablet form factor.
Anyone who hasn't tried Windows 8 might be surprised by the upcoming operating system's deviations from the established norm, as exemplified by a start screen composed of colorful tiles linked to applications (all the better for tablets and touch devices). Microsoft also decided to abandon much of the Aero design that defined Windows Vista and Windows 7 in favor of its Metro design aesthetic.
One Big Ecosystem
Current rumors (fueled by blog postings on Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows and Pocketnow.com) suggest that "Windows Phone 8" will integrate in many ways with Windows 8. That would mean Microsoft will eventually take the very risky step of attempting to incorporate many flagship products into a single ecosystem.
While Bing might seem a distant follower to Google in the U.S. search-engine market, Microsoft's search-and-advertising deal with Yahoo (signed in 2010, and good for 10 years) actually doubles its market share, because it means that Bing powers Yahoo's back-end search. Thanks to that, Microsoft actually has a not-insignificant third of the U.S. search market.Â
Windows Mobile 6.5
Sometimes, a company finds itself forced to release a product as a stopgap measure until it can build something truly game-changing. So it was with Windows Mobile 6.5, released in October 2009 with the stated aim of maintaining Microsoft's presence in smartphones until Windows Phone could hit store shelves. However, Windows Mobile 6.5 failed to stop the erosion of Microsoft's market share.
Based on the shovelsful of criticism hurled at it over the years, one would think that Windows Vista held a negligible share of the traditional OS market. And you'd be right. Vista currently occupies some 8.10 percent of the market (according to Net Applications), well behind the much older Windows XP, with 45.39 percent, and somewhat-newer Windows 7, with 38.12 percent.
Microsoft once tried to take on Apple's iPod with the Zune and Zune HD, which failed to achieve significant market share. However, a variant of the Zune's Metro design interface continues to live on, in products such as Windows Phone and the upcoming Windows 8.Â
The Incredible Shrinking Start Button
Windows 95 offered a prominent start button that gave users access to their files and applications. Windows 98 continued that tradition. Windows Vista reduced the start button to a tiny logo/icon, a theme perpetuated in Windows 7. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview gets rid of the button entirely (at least on the desktop side of things). Obviously, someone wants it disappeared.
Despite a year of anemic sales and relatively little market share, Microsoft isn't willing to throw in the proverbial towel with Windows Phone quite yet. Instead, the company treated this January's Consumer Electronics Show as a platform for a very low-key relaunch of the smartphone platform. Nokia is leading this renewed push with its Lumia line, including the Lumia 900 (seen here).Â
Microsoft didn't pay $8.5 billion for Skype in 2011 just to keep it running as a standalone product; the company fully intends to integrate its technology into a variety of other products. (Buying up Skype also kept it out of the hands of Google and other companies.)