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The year in Microsoft: Tablets, interface overhauls and social media moves

19 Dec 2012
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While 2012 has seen its fair share of big events, it has been especially significant for the world's biggest software company, with major new releases coming out for its Windows and Windows Server platforms, mobile phones, and also its first device launch.

With an unprecedented number of products getting an overhaul at once, the firm could be seen as taking a big risk as it attempts to change direction and stay relevant in a rapidly changing IT marketplace.

The Windows platform typically sees a new launch every three years or so, but Windows 8 has ushered in a bigger change than usual, thanks to its radical new user interface optimised for gesture input on tablets and other touchscreen devices.

Along with this Modern UI is a corresponding new application model that allows developers to create touch-optimised apps that will run across both the x86 and ARM versions of the new platform. This strategy was chosen in order to deliver greater battery life on mobile devices, as the new APIs provide the operating system more fine-grained control over Modern UI apps, stopping them from running continuously when not required to, for example.

However, reaction to Windows 8 seems to have been mixed so far, with some reports indicating that uptake has been relatively slow compared with Windows 7, despite Microsoft claiming to have sold 40 million licences for the new platform.

Many large organisations are still in the throes of a migration from the older XP to Windows 7, which could explain the muted interest, despite Windows 8 incorporating many new features that should prove valuable to enterprise users.

Reaction has been more favourable to Windows Server 2012, which includes capabilities to make it easier for customers to build and manage a private cloud infrastructure based on the new platform.

These include support for networking virtualisation, a new Resilient File System (ReFS) and Storage Spaces, which allows for users to create a pool of storage from multiple hard drives with support for thin provisioning and mirroring.

But the new Windows Server only really delivers its full potential when used with another product that debuted this year, Microsoft's System Center 2012 management suite.

Together, the two pieces of software help Microsoft to offer capabilities closer in line to VMware's platform, such as the ability to provision servers from bare-metal and allocate them to a pool for hosting applications and services.

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Daniel Robinson
About

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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