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.
Microsoft Tries to Rebuild Strained Relationships
5. EU compromise
Microsoft has been forced to deal with government regulators for far too long. Its battle with the European Union was arguably one of its worst. The EU had big plans for hurting Microsoft and its operating system. But through a series of tough negotiations, Microsoft worked out a relatively beneficial deal: It needs to give users the option of using one of 12 different browsers. No biggie. They’re still buying Windows.
6. A stronger focus on security
Security has long been a thorn in Microsoft’s side. Windows has been inundated with malware that has not only ruined some users’ computers, it has pushed some consumers to other operating systems. But in 2009, Microsoft did a better job of confronting security issues. It released Security Essentials. It also did a better job of patching problems. Microsoft’s focus on security is improving, but it still has a long way to go.
7. The death of Vista
Vista might be Microsoft’s biggest blunder of the decade. The operating system that was supposed to carry the torch after XP was a disaster. It damaged Microsoft’s relations with the enterprise, consumers and vendors. But 2009 was the year Microsoft could finally put Vista in the past. And it did that the right way-it ignored Vista and tried to shift everyone’s attention to Windows 7. Smart move, Microsoft.
8. Opening retail stores
I always felt that Microsoft was leaving money on the table by not opening retail stores. In 2009, the company finally did. We don’t know yet just how successful those stores will be, but they should substantially improve customer relations, PC availability and Microsoft’s ability to offer support. It’s a good first step.
9. The retaking of the enterprise
The enterprise was most negatively affected by Vista. Companies were forced to keep outdated hardware running XP out of fear that Vista would wreak havoc on their operations. When Microsoft prepared for the release of Windows 7, it offered an Enterprise Edition for a trial period. Once those users tried it out, they found that Windows 7 offered more “enterprise-friendliness.” XP Mode is arguably the best proof of that.
10. Control of the netbook market
The netbook market is the next frontier in the PC space. For a while, Linux reigned supreme. But over the past year, Microsoft has consolidated its power in the small PC space, making Windows 7 Starter Edition a practical must-have for those who want the best netbook experience. Kudos, Microsoft.