It's easy to beat up on Microsoft. For the past few years, the software giant has had trouble with Windows Vista, causing vendors and customers to run to Mac OS X or stick with Windows XP. Internet Explorer has become a far less ubiquitous presence in the software market. Even Windows Mobile has failed to put a dent in Apple's growing market share. Needless to say, Microsoft has fallen on some tough times.
But it wasn't all bad in 2009. In fact, some might say 2009 was one of Microsoft's better years. It was marked by the release of Windows 7, a deal with Yahoo and the resurgence of Microsoft on the Web. The best part is, Microsoft is going into 2010 with more momentum than it has enjoyed in quite some time. But let's take time to reflect on this past year first. What did Microsoft do right in 2009?
1. Windows 7's launch
Vista got off to a bad start and we all know how that turned out. But the next version of its operating system was a different story. Microsoft released Windows 7 without a hitch, easily besting Apple's "Snow Leopard" release. It was a stellar launch for Microsoft, helping get the operating system off on the right foot.
2. Windows 7 itself
Windows 7 is a fantastic operating system. It has an improved task bar. Its usability is far beyond Vista's. And thanks to the release of new features such as BitLocker To Go, users can secure their data without much trouble. It's also helpful that the operating system is being offered at a relatively affordable price. Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. But we have what we want now. And we like it.
Microsoft has done a great job of developing Bing. Live Search was nothing more than an also-ran in the market. And although Bing has just started moving up the market-share charts, the search engine has brought several neat features, such as visual search. Bing Maps is also a major improvement over Google Maps. Bing is set for a big 2010.
4. The Yahoo deal
Although it took a long while to complete, Microsoft's deal with Yahoo was probably one of the biggest moves the software giant made all year. By inking the deal with Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, Steve Ballmer will soon have gained his company the market share needed to make it a real race between Microsoft and Google. It was a strategic move that could have a lasting impact on the Web.