This year hasn't turned out too bad for Microsoft, which has seen fewer of the damaging legal dramas in which the software firm often seems to become embroiled. Meanwhile, the company has brought many new products to market while advancing its cloud services strategy.
The year started with much excitement as chief executive Steve Ballmer showed off an early version of Windows 8 running on an ARM development system at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, sparking endless speculation about the upcoming platform, its user interface, and how Microsoft was going to deal with application compatibility across x86 and ARM versions of Windows.
Microsoft also pushed ahead with its cloud strategy, introducing the Office 365 productivity services in June. These offer the equivalent of Outlook, SharePoint and Lync communications, delivered via a browser so that customers have no need to deploy servers on a local network, and have been well received so far.
Also well received was the Windows Phone 7 platform, following the release of the Mango update this year, while Microsoft scored a major fillip with the announcement that Nokia was switching to Windows Phone as its smartphone platform.
On the acquisition front, Microsoft swallowed Skype, but has yet to give any real indication of what it intends to do with the purchase, while rumours persisted about Microsoft's interest in at least part of Yahoo.
However, it hasn't all been sunshine and roses for Microsoft. Recent reports claim that shareholders are losing confidence in Steve Ballmer's leadership, while at least one age-old conflict came back to haunt the company after Novell started anti-trust proceedings over allegations regarding the launch of Windows 95.
Meanwhile, take-up of Windows 7 has continued to grow, according to some reports, even as Microsoft prepares to deliver the first beta of Windows 8 sometime early next year.
Other major releases we can hope to see from Microsoft in 2012 include Windows Server 8, which promises a whole host of optimisations for cloud infrastructure, including pooling of disk space across servers, thin provisioning and network virtualisation.
Also due next year is System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. This management tool will enable administrators to manage VMware and Hyper-V infrastructure from the same console, and is hotly anticipated among enterprise customers.
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