Microsoft in 2012: 20 Key Milestones for the Software Giant
Windows 8 Launches Around the World
In October, the world met Windows 8. The vibrant, reimagined new version of Microsoft's Windows operating system is off to a strong start. In late November, Tami Reller, chief marketing officer and chief financial officer of the Windows Division, announced, "We have sold 40 million licenses so far." "Bold," "powerful" and "fast" are just a few of the words reviewers used to describe Windows 8.
Microsoft introduced consumers to a whole new way of computing with the June announcement of the Surface family of PCs. Continuing Microsoft's 30-year history of hardware innovation, Surface is designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees.
Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky Departs
On Nov. 12, Microsoft announced that Windows President Steven Sinofsky was leaving the company as part of a leadership change to drive the next wave of products. Julie Larson-Green was promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Reller retained her roles as CFO and CMO, and assumed responsibility for the business of Windows. Sinofsky's ouster came after the successful release of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet, and was reminiscent of the Baltimore Ravens ditching quarterback Trent Dilfer after winning Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. Like Sinofsky, Dilfer was known as a great manager, but the team brass wanted more out of the position. However, unlike Sinofsky, everybody on the team liked Dilfer. Word inside Microsoft is that Sinofsky clashed with other company leaders. Since Dilfer's departure, the Ravens have never reached another Super Bowl. Wonder if Microsoft will face a similar fate.
Windows Server 2012 Launches
In September, Microsoft released a new version of the world's most popular server OS. Windows Server 2012 puts new power under the hood of the modern data center, delivering major advances in productivity and cost savings.
Unveiling the New Office
First introduced in July, the new Office is touch- and keyboard-friendly, and features Windows 8-style apps, cloud support and social capabilities. Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer in June brought enterprise social networking to the new Office portfolio.
Windows Phone 8 Arrives
Company officials said the debut of Windows Phone 8 brought the power of Windows 8 to a new smartphone designed with real people in mind. Called "a delight to use" by The Wall Street Journal, Windows Phone 8 features a customizable Start screen and Live Tiles, and more than 120,000 apps from which to choose.
SQL Server 2012 Launches
Worldwide, people are creating more data than ever before, yet on average, organizations actually use less than 5 percent of the data available to them. Released in April, SQL Server 2012 is designed to help business put big data to work, delivering actionable insights and real impact.
Visual Studio 2012 Rolls Out
In September, Microsoft launched Visual Studio 2012. Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, said Visual Studio 2012 is all about enabling developers to build and manage these consumer-focused and business-focused apps. It provides tools that enable developers to build new apps or evolve existing ones, and it lets individuals and teams deliver continuous value. In conjunction, .NET 4.5 provides expansive capabilities for developers working on all forms of apps and services, from client to mobile to the Web to the cloud, while at the same time enabling fast time to market. On Nov. 26, Microsoft delivered Visual Studio 2012 Update 1.
Internet Explorer 10
IE10 is the Windows 8 browser; it was built specifically to make the Web a first-class citizen on Windows 8 devices, right alongside apps, said Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's senior director of Internet Explorer. "It is exceptionally fast and fluid when it comes to performance. Most importantly, IE10 is arguably the first browser that is perfect for touch," Gavin said. "With an entirely new modern touch-first UI, IE10 raises the bar for what we should expect from the Web on new modern devices. The underlying platform innovations in IE10 around touch are allowing developers to create new experiences that rival their native app counterparts."
Support for Linux on Azure
In a June blog post, Microsoft's Bill Laing wrote that users can "migrate existing workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SharePoint to the cloud, bring your own customized Windows Server or Linux images, or select from a gallery." In a separate post the same day, Gianugo Rabellino, senior director of open-source communities at Microsoft, said: "Enabling use of Linux on Windows Azure is a key piece of the puzzle, and needs to be as easy as possible. As with data services, it's all about strong partnerships with industry leaders: This is why you are seeing Windows Azure partnering with major Linux publishers to provide an amazing experience, and I'm sure this will be a very exciting and ongoing story."
The 'New' Bing
Bing keeps getting bigger and better. Unveiled in May, the "new" Bing featured a refreshed design, faster and more relevant results, and an innovative social sidebar that brings users advice from friends and experts.
System Center 2012
System Center 2012 enables IT managers to deliver private cloud services that empower business teams, provide greater insights into application performance, and allow IT to carry forward current investments as they adopt public cloud computing, according to Microsoft officials. System Center 2012 solutions enhance the current Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud programs and offerings for private cloud computing, including the ability to best manage virtualized workloads.
Acquisition of Yammer
On June 25, Microsoft and Yammer announced that Microsoft would acquire Yammer—whose technology enables enterprise social networks—for $1.2 billion. Yammer joined the Microsoft Office Division. "The acquisition of Yammer underscores our commitment to deliver technology that businesses need and people love," said Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft. "Yammer adds a best-in-class enterprise social networking service to Microsoft's growing portfolio of complementary cloud services."
Microsoft concluded its annual fall Employee Giving Campaign by reaching a major milestone: $1 billion in employee cash gifts since 1983, benefiting about 31,000 nonprofits and community organizations around the world. At the same time, Microsoft launched Youth Spark, a companywide initiative to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for 300 million youths around the world over the next three years.
Microsoft solidified its embrace of the Hadoop big data handling technology. In October, at the O'Reilly Strata Conference + Hadoop World, Microsoft announced new previews of Windows Azure HDInsight Service and Microsoft HDInsight Server for Windows, the company's Apache Hadoop-based solutions for Windows Azure and Windows Server. The new previews deliver open-source Apache Hadoop compatibility for the enterprise and simplify deployment of Hadoop-based solutions. In addition, delivering these capabilities on the Windows Server and Azure platforms enables customers to use the familiar tools of Excel, PowerPivot for Excel and Power View to gain actionable insights from the data. Microsoft also announced an expanded partnership with Hortonworks, a commercial vendor of Hadoop, to give customers access to an enterprise-ready distribution of Hadoop with the newly released solutions.
Introducing Kinect for Windows
In February, Microsoft launched Kinect for Windows, extending the power of Kinect's natural user interface beyond gaming to real-world applications, from gentler cancer treatment for kids to a smarter, simpler way to find the perfect pair of jeans.
Zeus Botnet Cyber-Crime Bust
In a victory against online fraud and identity theft, Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit partnered with the financial services industry to disrupt the massive Zeus cyber-crime operation in March, striking back at botnets that experts believed were responsible for nearly half a billion dollars in damages.
Microsoft Buys Perceptive Pixel
On July 9, Microsoft and Perceptive Pixel announced that Microsoft would buy Perceptive Pixel, which produces large-scale, multi-touch display solutions. "The acquisition of PPI allows us to draw on our complementary strengths, and we're excited to accelerate this market evolution," said Kurt DelBene, president of Microsoft's Office Division. "PPI's large touch displays, when combined with hardware from our OEMs, will become powerful Windows 8-based PCs and open new possibilities for productivity and collaboration."
Xbox Delivers All-in-One Entertainment
Now reaching nearly 70 million consoles and more than 40 million Xbox LIVE members, Xbox in October released the Xbox Music service as well as the SmartGlass app, which extends entertainment experiences across consumers' TVs, tablets and phones.
'Halo 4' Hits Stores
The latest installment in Microsoft's Halo franchise generated strong reviews, with USA calling it "a triumphant return for Master Chief." Microsoft launched "Halo 4" in epic style around the world, flying a Glyph over London and transforming landmarks in the Principality of Liechtenstein into a recreation of the Halo universe.