Windows

The flipside: Five things Microsoft is doing right in 2010

We've criticized Microsoft for its Windows debacle, its failed mobile strategy, and more. However, here are five Microsoft bright spots that you might have missed.

I've hit Microsoft pretty hard recently for its Windows debacle, its failed mobile strategy, and its missed opportunities in the enterprise space. I continue to believe that the company is in the midst of an identity crisis that it refuses to acknowledge.

Still, not everything Microsoft is doing is a disaster. There are plenty of smart people who work for the Redmond, Washington colossus and there are several useful Microsoft products that are worth noting for those who follow business technology.

I've put together a quick list of five things Microsoft is doing right that may have slipped under your radar.

For instant analysis of tech news, follow my Twitter feed: @jasonhiner

1. Office Web Apps

Microsoft officially turned on the lights of its online version of Microsoft Office on June 7. In any other week, this would have been the top news story in technology. However, earlier that same day in San Francisco, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4, which hogged the tech news spotlight all week.

The product is called Office Web Apps and it is a free service available at office.live.com (Microsoft's official line is that this is available to people in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland). In order to log in, you'll need to create a Windows Live ID if you don't already have one.

Office Web Apps includes four applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. As you'd expect, these are stripped-down versions of the full Office 2010 apps, although earlier this year a Microsoft employee said that these may be the largest JavaScript Web apps on the planet.

My first impressions of Office Web Apps have been very good. The apps run fast, the interface is very familiar if you've already used Office, and you get a generous 25GB of free space as a result of the integration with SkyDrive. It even works well in non-Microsoft Web browsers and on mobile devices. This could bode well for Microsoft's future as a Web-based software provider.

2. Automatic mobile sync

Microsoft's strategy of trying to squeeze the Windows OS into a smartphone has failed, as platforms like BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android have all proven by running circles around Windows Mobile. Microsoft has further bungled the issue by splitting its mobile strategy into three platforms: Windows Phone 7, Windows Embedded Compact 7, and the KIN devices.

However, in the midst of the mobile fiasco, there's one thing Microsoft is doing right that other smartphone makers should emulate: Cloud sync. It's the sole redeeming feature in Microsoft's KIN. Gizmodo's John Hermann nailed it when he explained:

Each Kin phone automatically and transparently uploads virtually everything created with the phone to Microsoft's servers, from photos and videos to text messages and social media updates. Everything can later be accessed through a single web interface... It's a stupidly simple system, but for some reason the effect is stunning. Here's my stuff, on my phone. Here's my stuff, on my computer. Here's my stuff, on another computer. Why doesn't every phone work like this?

Because smartphones are becoming increasingly important as computing devices, this is huge. Now imagine if Microsoft could integrate this kind of wireless phone-to-computer sync with its new Office Web Apps platform so that a business user could automatically have access to all of her current business documents from her smartphone, without having to physically to sync it to her computer or email a file to herself, etc. It would be like iTunes for your business files, except synced wirelessly over the Internet. This would be a killer feature that Microsoft could use to promote its devices to business professionals.

3. Free antivirus and malware protection

Arguably, the biggest problem with Microsoft Windows today is malware. The OS remains a huge target because of its massive installed base and the attacks against it are getting more sophisticated. As a result, way too many users are losing productivity because otherwise-functional Windows PCs are being riddled with spyware and malware. Even highly-skilled technologists like my ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow are getting hit.

And, while it's true that Mac and Linux can be just as susceptible to malware attacks as Windows, the fact is that they simply aren't as targeted as often and aren't likely to be in the near future. For that reason, Windows requires even stronger spyware/malware/antivirus protection.

What you may not realize is that Microsoft recognizes this and is doing a few things to address it. The Redmond giant has launched its Malware Protection Center portal as well as an enterprise protection product called Forefront.

On the consumer side, Microsoft has a free antivirus and anti-malware solution called Security Essentials, which is a very respectable option. It's based on Forefront, it's not nearly as much of a resource hog as Norton or McAfee, it catches at least as many threats, and the price is right. For small businesses and entrepreneurs, Security Essentials is a very good option for protecting your PCs. For enterprises, you could recommend that your employees use Security Essentials (or another free alternative, ClamAV) on any systems that will be connecting to corporate resources over the VPN.

4. Outlook 2010

As I've said in the past, in the enterprise Microsoft Outlook is far more than just an email client. It's the world's most widely used project management application, the world's most widely-used document management application (for sharing files), and the world's most widely-used collaboration program. For that reason, any improvements to Outlook have the potential to make a significant impact on everyday knowledge workers.

Outlook 2010 brings a bundle of useful improvements, including the ability to work with multiple Exchange accounts, calendar preview within messages, the ability to see other messages from a recipient at the bottom of a message, the "Ignore" button for blocking an entire message thread, and archiving mail without PSTs (when combined with Exchange 2010).

In fact, Outlook 2010 has enough improvements that several members of TechRepublic's CIO Jury cited it as enough to make it worth the upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010 alone, as the CIO jury surprisingly voted in favor of Office 2010 as a worthy enterprise upgrade.

5. SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most widely-deployed applications that no one talks about. CIOs rarely mention it and the tech press shows little interest in it. And yet, if you ask IT professionals whether their organizations use SharePoint, you'd be surprised to learn how many of them do. A recent TechRepublic poll showed that 63% have it installed.

SharePoint has a boatload of features, but it is primarily used as an intranet portal. There are a ton of templates and built-in functionality for running an intranet, including an employee directory, wikis, and employee blogs, for example. The integration with Active Directory and Microsoft Office make SharePoint quick to deploy and easy to work with, especially for IT departments that are already Microsoft shops.

Microsoft itself appears to have gotten wise to the fact that SharePoint is one of its stealth successes. The company is now offering hosted SharePoint as a service and is aggressively marketing SharePoint 2010 to the enterprise as a valuable companion to Office 2010.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

70 comments
shay4yours
shay4yours

i agree with you though but do you really think the antivirus and malware protection are free? or free to trial?

terry.bradford
terry.bradford

Sorry but I don't beleive any of this document after seeing sharepoint in here at #5

davidjbell
davidjbell

Your article praises Outlook. It was a great application until after version 2003. Version 2007 runs incredibly and unacceptably slowly even on my Win 7 i7 proc 8GB RAM PC! No problems with the functionality but I hope 2010 is faster but I suspect it will be even slower? Anyone compared speeds yet?

rjensen
rjensen

Why are we jumping on the cloud bandwagon -- storing and editing sensitive company documents online -- with the obvious security risks associated with this action? Not to mention the lag time and loss of productivity when working on these documents. ...a reversion to the age of terminals...

lordofthefiles
lordofthefiles

sharepoint is installed indeed on every SBS server but in my experience nobody uses it, nobody needs it, nobody understands it, (take your pick) AND it breaks all by itself no tinkering needed. It will just spontaneously stop functioning. Thank God nobody needs it.

rhmercer
rhmercer

On-line Office sounds good at first but then it raises the question of security! I don't think I want to have my business/private correspondence accounting, database or whatever floating around in cyberspace on server run by Microsoft - admittedly the most insecure of systems ever.

DEK46656
DEK46656

You should have SQL Server on this list. It has to be one of the better things coming out of MS.

john
john

The problem for Microsoft is that they can't break free from Windows. They need to come up with a whole new OS that's built from the ground up and isn't shackled with the legacy of outdated file systems, 8.3 character filenames, paging files, disk fragmentation, .PST files, BIOS etc. Get under the hood in Windows and you very quickly stumble across dialog boxes that originated in NT4. Apple had the foresight to completely ditch their old OS and start from scratch with OSX - five years later this has given us an OS that is light years ahead of Windows in so many ways. A favourite example of mine is the file icons in OSX - you can actually thumb through the pages of a PDF or Word DOC by clicking on its icon. A little used function perhaps but how far away is MS from achieving such a feature? Another example, to quickly view all the index.html files in a folder, do a search for files matching that name and switch to the cover-flow view (as seen more commonly in iTunes) to flick through the resulting pages. Other built-in features of OSX include journaled disk format, sparse image files, firewire target mode, disk image mounting, instant searches, the Quartz 2D display that uses a development of display postscript, the ability to move a boot disk to another machine or boot from an external disk or even another attached Mac. There's no Serial number or activation for the OS and only one version - no cut down, nobbled version for the plebs. Surely, one day, Microsoft will have to drop Windows and make a proper system that isn't rooted in DOS but if Microsoft were to ditch Windows and start afresh who would stand by them and start with v1.0? And why bother when there's already a mature, fully developed, modern OS available. MS are going nowhere.

stumpertje
stumpertje

Still using a classic OS, weak kernel. Microsoft will be the victim of spyware and viruses as long as they won't change the OS. Even Windows 7 is getting slower and slower over time. I don't like Microsoft anymore! Using Ubuntu now, more stable, faster and much safer!

sbsistemas
sbsistemas

Hello My cell phone had the Windows.. and don't work... I can change this OS to Android? Silvio

write.mcgraw
write.mcgraw

Yes some good things are coming out of Redmond these days, namely SharePoint, but when will my Microsoft stock go up???

write.mcgraw
write.mcgraw

yes some good things are coming out of Redmond theses days, namely SharePoint, but when will my stock go up? Microsoft stock has been such a disappointment.

glenmy
glenmy

How can you say "Each Kin phone automatically and transparently uploads virtually everything created with the phone to Microsoft?s servers, from photos and videos to text messages and social media updates." and cite this as an example of what they are doing RIGHT?? The KIN is a cool looking little device, but each time I see TV commercials for it I say "Wouldn't want one of those. I'd have no control over my information." If I want to share things from my phone, I don't need MS doing it for me w/o permission. I'd sooner trust Google with all my data.

dslovejoy
dslovejoy

4 of your "right" things are the fact they are using cloud type technology. I don't see that as being benificial to most people. That leaves only 1 "right" thing Microsoft is doing well that most people can use and really need.

dhearne
dhearne

SharePoint blows. It makes annoying little things like saving files even more annoying because now there is an extra step. An extra step every time I want to do anything...fantastic. Also, SSMS and Sharepoint do not talk to each other. As such, I have to MANUALLY upload my SQL scripts to SharePoint. If I need them again, I have to MANUALLY download them to my computer for idiot SSMS to see them. But hey, it can do blogs! What an excellent way for productive employees to spend their time

benchsoft
benchsoft

Last year it was rubbish. This year it looks like you might be able to do something with it.

Burnett_Corp
Burnett_Corp

For one Microsoft fixes issues when Xbox Live goes down. Microsoft is cosumer friendly they help people out ASAP. Microsf office and other software that Microsoft developes and publishes. Even if Microsoft did do something wrong it's what humans do and I still be at Microsoft's side because they are the best Windows,office, Web Expression and Live.com are very good example how good Microsoft is!!!

kevlar700
kevlar700

People keep saying that Linux and mac are just less targetted. That is not true, they are less attackable full stop. Yes a rootkit can be written for any system but replicating/self executing viruses are highly unlikely or simply don't fit into the unix security model. The types that can be made, would cost far more to develop and have a shorter lifespan than for windows. Office is their biggest asset that they provide themselves and that's mainly because they refuse to support internationally recognised standards for file formats often breaking compatibilty with their own products as many a teacher will tell you. office.live.com and google office may finally give students an easy way out when files can't be opened.

adimauro
adimauro

With ASP.NET MVC, Microsoft finally got it right! It's a great framework. While it 'officially' came out in 2009, version 2 is out now in 2010, and they are finally really pushing the framework strongly.

starlingmk
starlingmk

I know its been out a while, but I consider SCOM to be a big success from Redmond. The monitoring is scalable and by pushing some of the sla reporting onto sharepoint goes a long way to making IT more transparent to the business.

blcslv
blcslv

I have used all of the versions of Windows before, many versions of Mac OS, and several Linux distributions. Windows 7 replaced all as my primary. In 1 year I have never had a crash, burp, or something that did not work(I have XP mode installed for things that need XP). I consider that the best thing in the last year.

capek
capek

I was pretty impressed when my teenage son voluntarily showed me how cool he thought Bing was, and I had to agree. It seems to be very helpful in suggesting things to search for once you've given the first indication, and makes the site very interesting through use of novel and varied photographs.

ihfwt
ihfwt

I believe the license for Microsoft Security Essentials is only for personal use. In a business you would have to use Microsoft Forefront.

JCitizen
JCitizen

to everyone up to small business class. Over that and then you pay. I read an article here on Tech Republic that had a break down of the EULA(license), and it seemed to indicate that genuinely to me. Since MS dropped One Care, they've stopped charging for it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How do you propose MS handle backwards compatibility with those billions of existing installed apps? If they drop backwards compatibility, what keeps users from migrating to Linux for free instead of spending money on MS's new offering? I'd love to see what you propose, but there may be too many 'bottom line' issues. Remember, MS is in business to make money.

MrKicks
MrKicks

But OSx is based on UNix, arguably older than Windows. Good to see Windows 7 has caught up with OS/2 to some extent. Now if it just WORKED!

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

Someone speaks up with significant facts regarding functional differences between the 2 operating systems that makes sense. As a new OSX user I have only recently come to realize a couple of the things you mention, namely the ability to boot another computers disc without even removing it from the computer! I am sure there are many more such things in my future regarding OSX. The more I learn about it, the more I am willing to endure the awkwardness of the change. I do alright with it as long as I continue to bear in mind the cardinal rule regarding ANY computer. "Never let a computer know you are in a hurry!" :)

rhmercer
rhmercer

This has got to be the neatest description of MS Windows since Bill stole the idea so long ago! One thing John did forget to mention is the question of memory. The ability to add as much memory as one wants without running into the terrible limitations and instability of Windows [all versions] is a major reason why the OS should, as he so rightly says, be dumped! Trouble is are there any real brains in MS who can do the job that is required........seemingly they can only work at botching and patching old versions. After all what is Windows 7 but a patched botched [updated?] Vista?

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

...and play with your Ubuntu system. My Win 7 machine is just as fast as it was last year...

ssj6akshat
ssj6akshat

Google Around with the name of your phone model.The downside of Smartphone hardware is that you can't replace the OS without hardwork.

Glenn from Iowa
Glenn from Iowa

At the risk of being labeled a Luddite, I'll bring up that this is my main concern with "cloud" computing. There are benefits and risks to each new technology, but I'm fairly leery of *any* company having *all* of my data. Resisting cloud computing can be taken to an extreme too, but I haven't seen the checks and balances or security that make me feel comfortable with it yet. I don't believe the movies are too far off (iRobot comes to mind) when they show what can happen when a single entity has control of everyone's data or software or computing platform or fill-in-the-blank. I'd rather have control of my data than Microsoft or Google or any other single entity. What happens when a major disaster strikes, and we don't have access to our data? I know, they're just keeping a copy of our data, but it's just so easy to get into the habit of trusting others with control. Once again, balance risks with benefits, but I see far more risks than benefits in cloud computing at this point.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I didn't realize the Kin did this, but that was my first though too. Apple has Mobile Me and other than a few glitches seems to work reasonably well. Bill

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Outlook and anti-virus are defiantly not cloud technologies (both run on the client, not in a web browser). Sharepoint is a web server/storage technology which could be delivered as a cloud technology but is usually installed in house (ie not a cloud technology). Not sure where you are getting only one. Since everyone seems to think that the cloud is the next big thing, I would think that Microsoft creating good cloud technologies would be a good thing. Bill Edited for grammer

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Regarding your SQL scripts, it sounds like you got stuck with someone who decided EVERYTHING should be stored in SharePoint, regardless of whether it's appropriate or not. Regarding the file saves, I agree about the extra steps. The trade-off is the availability of those files to everyone with access, and the ease of cataloging and searching them. It's a question of which data should be in SP and which shouldn't.

PeterM42
PeterM42

Just tried the Web version of Word. Oh dear! - one would have to be pretty desparate to want to use that. Still is only the first version (?) WAY TO GO YET!!!

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

WIth the IT support of the given companies/factions complaining about it. As an example, I can only cite my own experiences with it. Knowing MS's history regarding the Office Suite of products, I simply refused to buy that they had totally wiped the "backward compatibility" track record off the books. Didn't take much digging at all to set Office 07 up such that all documents created within it would default to the 97 - 03 Office format everyone is familiar with. I think it took me longer to figure out where the damned "Save As" option was than it did anything. Haha, I finally had to break down and ask a friend about it who then informed me of the Orb. At any rate, in such a wide-ranging suite of products, one can reasonably anticipate the likelihood of new programming languages being more suited for the given task.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

There is an open source ODF converter for Microsoft office. You don't have to save it in a Microsoft format. Bill

MrKicks
MrKicks

I can't disagree more. There is no doubt that Windows 7 is a vast improvement on Vista however , even ignoring all of the 'performance' enhancements. My system is far slower than it would have been using XP. I have to be very careful not to type too quickly as the OS drops characters as I type if I do. A very large amount of hardware (a lot of which was less than 6 months old at the time) just doesn't work with Windows 7, not the 64 bit version any way. XP mode has no point (I haven't found any software that works on Vista that doesn't work on 7). Luckily, VMWare allows me to use my hardware, as long as I don't connect it to the laptop until the VM has focus. Using Windows 7, I have for the first time run out of memory. I can't form a peer-to-peer network connection between my Windows 7 Ultimate laptop and my Windows 7 Home, desktops. It took many hours of work to connect either of them to my NASs which work brilliantly with XP and even worked well with Vista once SMB was patched. On balance I should have staid with XP, but that is not really an option.

davidjbell
davidjbell

I manage IT for a charity and was disappointed to read the licence and find that I couldn't use Security Essentials

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

Had to go and check. Seems as though they have reworded the EULA here recently. I was of the impression it was a great deal looser than it actually is. Probably because I was reading it as it applies to my own uses. That being a home-based business. Still, if Forefront is as good as MSE has been, it should be worth the money if it isn't outrageously priced. Thanks for the spark of interest though. Will be looking into Forefront for a few clients.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

I don't think it is a good idea to be telling people to use it for business purposes.

Kevin W
Kevin W

but not available for Windows 2003/2008 server and not centrally manageable. Any business large enough to warrant the use of a Windows domain will likely want ForeFront instead of MSE. I use both, and am pleased with both.

Excelmann
Excelmann

I've used paid versions of all these: Norton (uninstall is only the start, have to clean registry to remove completely), ZoneAlarm (resource hog), TrendMicro (resource hog), and McAfee with limited satisfaction. And if memory serves, the updates were always at the most inopportune times and stopped all other apps. Thank you MS for MSE.

john
john

I have no proposal for Microsoft, they have nowhere to go with Windows. And slowly but surely, users are migrating. Maybe the business world and every other computer user will have to go their separate ways. Is it going to be bit like the London taxi cab versus the rest of the automotive industry? A proper business vehicle eh? Apple freed itself from the shackles of OS9 by including a the Classic emulator in OSX and now with VMWare Fusion they've got a Windows 'emulator' too. The writing's on the wall. It's good to have choices but I've never seen the point of Linux when OSX gives you it all for 60 quid hassle free! Apple hardware is worth every penny.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

It was handed to him on a silver platter! Albeit a tiny one in comparison to the one it was handed to Steve Jobs on. Honestly, a bit unscrupulous or shrewd might be more appropriate. It is no more Bill Gates fault that MS dominates the industry today than it is Steve Jobs. I mean come on, the Macintosh was so much further advanced than the chickens__t hack that was Windows 3.1 for over 10 years! How was that squandered? By not paying attention to what the people want even with the evidence of it hanging around your throat threatening to strangle the life out of you. That's how. Yes, Steve has done a good job in reinventing Apple. Nonetheless he has his own way of doing business that stinks (to many) in varied areas too. I imagine that the 2 of them likely chuckle at much of the poppycock that goes on about their rivalry. I wonder how much a half billion dollars goes toward soothing some old wounds in that regard. But I digress. Yet, I call it like I see it. Always have always will. That is not to say I believe my opinion to be written in stone either though. :)

dhearne
dhearne

The whole point ofSsharepoint is to share, hence the name. A lot of things I want to save there, for sharing purposes, cannot use the API, which makes it that much more difficult to use the already irritating product. Now, if I was using an Oracle product that didn't cooperate with Sharepoint, I could understand. But I'm using SQL Server Management Studio. SQL Server provides the underlying architecture for SharePoint, but cannot utilize it effectively. Fail. Ever try to build a task list? Fail. Link to your calendar? Fail. Also, the implementation is horrible. Random, new databases with gigantic log files and names based upon hexadecimal SIDs that have to be babysat constantly is not my idea of a well-designed product. Maybe it needs some sort of tweeting ability to make it even more of a media darling yet retaining it's inherent kludgy uselessness

davidjbell
davidjbell

This is great for charities where the cost is zero and funtionality adequate for entry-level use. I found it a bit slow logging-on.

JCitizen
JCitizen

at Tech Republic, that stated MSE is free to any body lower than a certain size company. I think an SMB could use it for free without any problem. I'm not sure where the dividing line is. It is in the EULA however, if you understand legalese.

gavin142
gavin142

in general, but for us, we use it in our virtualized testbed machines extensively. this is because 1: it's free, 2: once initially configured, it automatically takes care of itself via the corp. network. 3: these machines are not as critical since they're wiped daily anyway. For our "real" machines, we use a centrally managed solution. Norton was way too cumbersome (and a pain to remove... I'm still finding tidbits on some of the workstations). McAfee was cumbersome and useless. We use Sunbelt's VIPRE now, inexpensive, effective, centrally manageable, and doesn't even bog down our older laptops. (and before you ask, No, I don't work for them, just have been extremely impressed with them.)

davidjbell
davidjbell

We must be reading different versions of the licence. When I read mine it says for home use only or similar woring; I'll take another look

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...I've never seen the point of Linux when OSX gives you it all for 60 quid hassle free! Apple hardware is worth every penny." The hardware may be worth the price, but it is often more than some (most?) users require. If you can get something that's 98% as effective for simple use (e-mail, web browsing, simple gaming) by spending much less on another brand running Linux, why spend extra on Apple iron? A BMW may be worth every penny, but it's more money than I'll spend to get back and forth to work.

rhmercer
rhmercer

What part of STOLE did you no understand??

john
john

There's simple one reason why Windows 3.1 wasn't blown away by the Mac or even the Atari ST - business computer users in those days were only secretaries and accountants. And they didn't need (or want) windows, icons, menus, or pointers. It was all too fuzzy for them. Accountants like unequivocal commands such as del, copy, rename etc. Try explaining how to copy a file in the WIMP environment to someone who's never used it. Move your mouse pointer over the file and click and hold, then drag the file across the desktop to the folder you want to copy it to and let go. It was all too vague for business users who liked their DOS commands and complained that the Mac was just a toy. Actually any serious user of Windows 3.1 would open a DOS window asap after it booted. That ethos is what let Bill Gates get such a stranglehold on business and it's still with us today.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

Have been waiting to hear some feedback from the "hands-on" sector regarding Vipre. It seems to be spreading relatively fast. Lets just hope they don't forge the same path most of these new AV solutions follow. Et al, bloated suites of garbage.

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