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Why 2012 will be remembered as the year Microsoft was bold

06 Sep 2012
V3's Dan Robinson

When we look back at 2012, it is likely this year will be seen as a real watershed moment for Microsoft, as the software giant strives to change direction in a rapidly changing IT market.

By the time this year draws to a close, Microsoft will have launched new versions of many of its most significant products, including both client and server versions of its flagship Windows operating system, its smartphone platform, and the Office application suite, not to mention its increasingly broad-ranging System Center management platform.

As far as I am aware, Microsoft has never before refreshed all of these product lines within the space of a single year, and many of the new versions represent a quite radical change from the current release.

It's a bold move from a company that has clearly taken heed of the changing technology landscape and the threats to its continued dominance from companies such as Apple and the burgeoning cloud services market.

But it's also a risky strategy to change so many big-ticket products all at the same time, and Microsoft also risks disenchanting many existing customers - especially in the conservative corporate market - by radically overhauling products that they depend on for their day-to-day operations.

Much has been written already about Windows 8, which messes with the tried-and-trusted Windows desktop user interface in order to deliver a platform capable of providing a decent user experience on a lightweight tablet computer.

The danger here is that it is so different from current versions of Windows that business customers may be wary of integrating it into their environment, if only because of the user retraining that might be necessary.

But there seems to be some genuine excitement around the Windows RT Surface device that Microsoft itself is building, which is set to deliver Windows 8 along with built-in Office applications on ARM-based devices.

Here, Microsoft appears to be targeting the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend which has seen so many Apple iPads infiltrate corporate networks thanks to employees purchasing the devices themselves then using them for work.

If the rumours of aggressive pricing for the Surface devices turn out to be true, these are likely to be a tempting purchase for many users, both professional and consumer.

Microsoft could be on surer ground with Windows Server 2012, which seems to have been generally welcomed by IT professionals and which adds many useful new technologies while expanding on those already offered in the previous release.

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Daniel Robinson

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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