Microsoft 2018 year in review: The 10 biggest headlines

Take a look back at the defining moments for Microsoft in the past 12 months.

Windows 10's first paid-for, Linux-based distro: $20 app out now, says Microsoft WLinux is a $20 open-source, Debian-based distribution, designed to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

A lot can happen in a year, especially when you're a tech company as big as Microsoft. From failed updates to buying GitHub, it has been a big year for the Windows maker, and whittling a list of the top Microsoft headlines down to 10 items was tough.

Some of the things that didn't make the top 10 include the Windows 10 April update, which brought a bunch of new features to the company's flagship OS, the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the launch of new Surface products in October. The exclusion of those items only means that Microsoft had a busy year.

SEE: Securing Windows policy (Tech Pro Research)

Windows 7 gets and end of life date

Windows 10 has been a huge success for Microsoft, but that hasn't stopped 35% of Windows users from sticking with Windows 7.

Microsoft had a message for Windows 7 loyalists that it released in February: Windows 7 support will end on January 14, 2020. That means Windows 7 users have just over a year to migrate to Windows 10 or be stuck with an OS that is no longer receiving updates.

Microsoft has offered one concession: Windows 7 security updates will be available through 2023 if you're willing to pay a per-machine fee for them.

Microsoft releases its first Linux-powered product

Azure Sphere, a software/hardware stack designed to secure edge computing devices, was released in April. It's essentially a custom Linux kernel, and signals a large departure from the Steve Ballmer "Linux is a cancer" days.

Azure Sphere is yet another sign of Microsoft's embrace of open-source computing and will likely be one in a long list of Linux-powered open source products to come out of Redmond in the years to follow.

Microsoft buys GitHub

Rumors were swirling, and Microsoft finally announced it had closed a deal to buy GitHub on June 4, 2018.

The purchase put Azure, Microsoft's cloud service, in a position to grab hold of more market share, and the Linux Foundation called the purchase good news for the open source community.

The purchase did not include Kubernetes or Node.js.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Project Natick deploys five-year underwater data center

Microsoft's Project Natick launched several years ago to explore the possibility of underwater data centers.

Previous tests had proven short-duration underwater data centers were possible, and in June Project Natick made a big leap by deploying its first long-term underwater data center pod off the coast of the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

If all goes according to plan, the pod should be able to live on the ocean floor for five years without needing any human intervention.

SEE: Microsoft CEO Nadella: Underwater data centers are the future (ZDNet)

The Surface gets a budget model

Microsoft has found great success with its Surface line, but the laptop/tablet hybrids have all had one thing in common: A hefty price tag.

The Surface Go, launched in July, is a budget model priced at $399. Designed to appeal to students and enterprises, the Surface Go doesn't pack the same internals as premium Surface models, but it's perfect for those looking for the Surface experience without breaking the bank.

Skype gets end-to-end encryption

Announced in January, Microsoft finally released end-to-end encryption for Skype conversations in August.

End-to-end Skype encryption uses the Signal protocol and is available for free on Skype for Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, and Linux.

To enable what Skype calls private conversations, check out this guide.

Office 2019 was released

Office 365 has become Microsoft's default Office product and is part of the wave of subscription-based services taking the software world by storm. For those unable to migrate to the cloud, or unwilling to pay a subscription fee, Microsoft released Office 2019 in September.

Office 2019 is an on-premise Office installation and is available for Windows and macOS. It includes familiar Office products including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Project, Visio, Access, and Publisher.

Office 2019 buyer beware: Microsoft said that Office 2019 is a one-time release and won't receive feature updates that Office 365 subscribers will get as part of their subscription.

The botched Windows 10 October update

The October update for Windows 10 was supposed to bring a bunch of highly-requested features to the OS, but it came with an unwanted surprise in the form of a bug that irrevocably deleted some user files.

Microsoft quickly paused the update, and it took the company over a month to fix the issue and re-release the update in November.

SEE: Worst Windows 10 version ever? Microsoft's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad October (ZDNet)

The Surface gets a hardware-as-a-service plan

Surface All Access isn't Microsoft's first attempt at a hardware-as-a-service plan for its Surface devices, and it remains to be seen if this one will be successful.

As Mary Jo Foley, a writer for TechRepublic sister site ZDNet, said, "Surface All Access faces a bit of a cultural issue in that folks are used to buying and owning PCs. Desktop as a service models haven't exactly taken off in the enterprise so the consumer and SMB hurdle may be even higher."

With financing starting at $24.99/month for a 240-month lease on a Surface Go, it's definitely tempting. As more of our devices simply become access points to the cloud, the hardware itself isn't as important as being able to access our data. Smartphones have already entered the era of hardware-as-a-service, and Microsoft is trying to do the same thing for desktop and laptop computers.

Edge moves to Chromium

Edge, Microsoft's newest web browser, hasn't captured much of the browser market. In an attempt to expand its reach, Microsoft announced it's rebuilding Edge using Google's open-source Chromium project.

Microsoft has said that it intends for Edge to support existing Chrome extensions, which it hopes will open up Edge's market share to users who have been largely sticking with Google Chrome.

Also see

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Microsoft Surface Go

Image: Sarah Tew/CNET