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OPINION: I really like this new, daring Microsoft

Andy Vandervell


Satya Nadella

OPINION: Andy Vandervell shares how he feels Microsoft hit all the right notes in its recent Windows 10 event

Microsoft’s recent history isn’t littered with success. Windows 8 was a panic-fuelled flop. Google and Android have trampled Windows Phone near to death. Sales of PCs have slowed to a crawl. Bing has burnt through billions of dollars with no discernable return. The Xbox One launch betrayed a tone deafness that was only remedied by a series of embarrassing but necessary about turns. Microsoft has lurched from one ‘crisis’ to the next like a punch-drunk boxer. Now it’s standing up straight and paying attention.

Paying attention. That’s just the point, really. Many of the above failures were avoidable had Microsoft simply stopped and listened, but it was too rattled to do so. It tried to force a brave new world on unwilling users with Windows 8. It tried to bluff its way through years of catching up on mobile. It tried to convince Xbox gamers that they ought to be excited about TV instead of… you know, games.

Related: What is HoloLens? Microsoft's holographic headset explained

But I look at Windows 10 and I see a company actively listening in a way it hasn’t before. We spiked a planned feature on the things Microsoft still needed to fix in Windows 10 because it had already fixed them. It’s not the finished article, obviously, but Microsoft’s new attitude is reflected in the upcoming preview build of Windows 10. It’s listened and acted.

Then comes HoloLens. Microsoft has always innovated. In fact, it’s often been way ahead of its time. Bill Gates was touting tablets when the iPad wasn’t even a sketch on Jony Ive’s drawing board – it even explored smartwatches long before the recent explosion of interest. Go look it up. What it’s lacked is timing and execution.

Will it be different for HoloLens? It’s too early say, but it shows a daring and futuristic vision seldom seen from Microsoft of late. Moreover, Microsoft execs know it. For once we weren’t witnessing feigned enthusiasm for the ‘magical’ new features of a new device. HoloLens isn’t 'Designed for Humans' and it isn’t 'Bigger than bigger'. It doesn’t need marketing pitch. It sells itself.

And this is coming from the most jaded, sceptical TrustedReviewer going. I don’t often put my rants to paper, but rarely does a day pass without me loudly lamenting the shallow and empty ‘innovation’ touted by many tech companies. One of these days I should share what I think of Project Ara, but that’s a story for another time.

This amuses my colleagues endlessly, but I’m right. If it’s called ‘innovation’ then it’s bullshit 90 per cent of the time.

Related: Hands-on with HoloLens: What the pundits are saying

I don’t feel that way about HoloLens. Microsoft had my full attention during its unveiling. The TrustedReviews team is rarely idle during any launch. We’re all busy writing, note taking, analysing, observing, reacting – it’s the nature of online publishing. HoloLens was one of those rare moments when everyone stopped. Everyone was paying attention.

It feels as if Microsoft is heading for a new era of bright new things under Nadella. It still has challenges – all the problems Steve Ballmer failed to tackle haven’t faded away overnight – but Microsoft looks fresh and engaged again. It has a focus and a confidence I haven’t felt since I began in tech journalism. That’s progress.

Paul Brasington

January 22, 2015, 8:20 pm

Two things... First, Win8 was another one of those badly timed, terribly executed but fundamentally right ideas, as tablets fail to take over the universe and hybrids look to be where the market's going.
Second, with you all the way about "innovation" bullshit, and I think we'll know when Microsoft really has changed when it finds the confidence to drop all the crap, and just say "look at what we've done ... we think this is pretty good". Funnily enough the marketing speak sounds particularly false from Nadella. He's being very badly advised... he clearly knows what he's doing, and they just need to let him find his own voice.


January 23, 2015, 10:30 am

Well said. I hope you are right and MS have turned a corner. Like most people, using MS products is pretty much compulsory for work, if nothing else. These last few years, I have often felt like I have been productive with IT in spite of MS rather than because of them.

It would be great to feel like we're batting for the same team again.

(PS: Can't help but feel that this is all Steve Balmer's fault!)


January 23, 2015, 12:50 pm

Both good points. In many respects Windows 8 has prepared the ground for Windows 10, but it could have done that without alienating people quite so much. A few small concessions, such as the Start button and a 'straight to desktop' mode, would have allayed the problems of consumers and businesses.

The good news is for Microsoft is that the hardware is now ready for Windows 10. Intel's new processors are efficient enough to make small, cheap tablets running Windows a viable concern, and industrial design has improved too.

Fredrik Jönsson

February 17, 2015, 11:46 am

Why dont Microsoft add a built in Airplay killer? if you have something that sounds or moves on the screen let me stream it to whatever device running Microsofts operating system just like Airplay. How can it take so long time to add that into the operating system? That sells. I know that there is Miracast, Blutooth, Allplay, DLNA, DIAL, Smartglass the list goes on and on. But its not for the normal user to use. I still cant play music from my Lumia phone to my Xbox one (Spotify) and se a Flash video via smartglass from my surface pro to xbox one? Please fix a airplay killer that works between units without rocket sience education. Why is Apple the only company that can deliver simple things that user can use out of the box without google a few hours to get it working? I dont like Apple and this is driving my nuts.

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