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The Juggernaut of the Computer Industry: Microsoft Corporation

 Silicon Review
   2015-11-28

As Leonardo Da Vinci had once said, “The natural desire of good men is knowledge.” But knowledge can lead one to success if one has the desire to achieve something big.

‘Windows’ a name that resonates in everyone’s mind when it comes to a computer, has created history since its invention and since time immemorial, has been the predominant and most famous operating system of all time to rule the PC industry. The company behind this brilliant OS is known to almost every person around the globe and it is none other than Microsoft Corporation.

Founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, Microsoft is an American multinational technology company that develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services. Its best selling software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, Microsoft Office suite, and Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox gaming consoles and the Microsoft Surface tablet lineup.

The world’s largest software maker by revenue, and one of the world’s most valuable companies, Microsoft also produces a wide range of other software for desktops and servers and is active in areas including Internet search (with Bing), the video game industry (with the Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles), the digital services market (through MSN), and mobile phones (via the operating systems of Nokia’s former phones and Windows Phone OS).

Microsoft entered the personal computer production market for the first time, with the launch of the Microsoft Surface (a line of tablet computers) in 2012. Today, the company has become one of the largest and almost ruling monopoly Multinational Technology Company in the world and is led by Satya Nadella, a 22 year Microsoft veteran.

The Game Changer’s journey round the clock
Known as the most dominating and wealthiest technology corporation at a time, Microsoft’s downfall started due to its strange mishmash and confused offerings. For example, Windows 8, otherwise a perfectly functional operating system with excellent feature sets and performance, had earned terrifyingly bad press because of a poor user interface-related decision and many people had been unwilling to even give the new UI a chance in fear of alienation. While many of its divisions showed signs of success and Microsoft Windows still had the largest user base in the world among all operating systems, the company had seemed to have lost all sense of purpose, drifting aimlessly and churning out ho-hum products by 2014.

As a result, the company’s market shares and financial figures started to deteriorate, but the arrival of a new CEO, Satya Nadella, following the retirement of the previous CEO, Steve Ballmer, radically turned everything around. The wiry, bespectacled, soft-spoken Nadella was as different in his methods as he was in appearance from his rotund and

boisterous predecessor, and one of the first things he did upon his arrival was to send an email to every employee, outlining a radical new direction which the company would be taking under his leadership. The email outlined Microsoft’s increased concentration in the fields of cloud services and mobile devices, and also set the stage for a massive change in the company’s culture and innovative practices, turning it from a hulking, sluggish behemoth into a nimble yet immensely powerful speedster.

Nadella’s most significant move upon his ascension to the CEO’s throne was the creation of a new team by the name of Windows and Devices Group, which would focus on developing the Windows ecosystem across the board, creating a unified computing experience on all devices, regardless of size. While the crisp and tile-based Modern User had been well-received by Windows Phone users, its desktop iteration, in the form of Windows 8, was met with a great deal of opposition and most users refused to even give it a chance, instead sticking with older versions of Windows. The Windows and Devices Group, under the leadership of industry veteran Terry Myerson, set out to integrate the Modern UI experience for mobile and desktop users alike. The resultant unification, known as ‘Continuum’, is due to appearance in future releases of Windows as a standard feature, to finally close the rift between the platforms. Windows 10 have brought forth a unanimously positive response from users, who were delighted to see the much-missed Start Menu back in action, albeit in a new tile-augmented form.

A Reformist, Perfectionist, and a synonym for Progressiveness: Satya Nadella, CEO
Proudly known as the Indian- American CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella needs no introduction. Globally known for his proficient yet convivial style of workmanship, he joined Microsoft in February 2014, succeeding Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates appointed Nadella as CEO with a believe that he is the ideal person to play the role of the company’s key executive, after the harsh situations the company had gone through until recently. Having supported Nadella as a mentor in his initial days as CEO, Gates’ decision and priority over the new CEO was top-notch. Since then, Nadella has not only fulfilled the expectations of many, but has triggered the financial figures on the chart to a level, such that the company is now back on track, that too just in a span of one year!

On Nadella’s one-year anniversary as Microsoft CEO, the company’s stocks were up 14 percent from where they were last year. The overall trend showed that the investors were happy with the changes Nadella has been instituting. The most important change brought by Nadella, though, was an overall paradigm shift in Microsoft’s approach toward competitors. By setting himself apart from his overly confrontational predecessor yet again, Nadella chose to be the ultimate pragmatist, and broke down the walls of outdated policies that prevented Microsoft from expanding. A practical man, Nadella understood that the simplest way to achieve success in this regard was to reach the greatest number of users, this gutsy move paid off, however, and user numbers for the Microsoft offerings shot up rapidly upon being exposed to the most popular OS environments.

All in all, Nadella and his gigantic team is working heart and soul to deploy “as it was” brand which would resonate with the needs and wants of users from every platform, and from what the world has witnessed so far, it has got the perfect captain at the helm to spearhead this titanic transformation. Microsoft has been around for more than forty years, and perhaps never has it been more exciting to customers and shareholders alike. That said, with Nadella and his team on their toes 24*7, Nadella’s belief that, “Over the next 10 years, we’ll reach a point where nearly everything has become digitized”, is sure to come true.

“We will continue to make strides in providing innovation in the realm of connected systems that bridge the unstructured world of human processes with the structured world of business applications.”

Trending Now
Microsoft HoloLens and Volvo Cars partner to explore future of car buying- The partnership will explore future automotive and technology scenarios and reimagining how people experience car buying – from seeking information to customizing the car of their choice.

New Microsoft Enterprise Cybersecurity Group to Provide Greater Security Capabilities- The Enterprise Cybersecurity Group will use Microsoft’s deep security perspective and experience to help secure customers data by optimizing their investment in Microsoft products and technologies. Microsoft has unique, tailored solutions that can help customers monitor, analyze and prioritize threats within their environments. In addition, it offers industry-leading tactical and strategic response capabilities backed with unique access to deep product expertise. This combination of cybersecurity consulting services, on-premises and cloud-based solutions, will help modernize and support the company’s commercial and public sector customers’ security strategies.

Microsoft at the top of the Corporate Equality Index again- For the 10th year in a row, Microsoft earned a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI, organized by the Human Rights Campaign, rates U.S.-based companies on their corporate policies and practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

New Edge browser gets its first platform update, EdgeHTML13- With EdgeHTML 13, the recently released Edge browser with Windows 10 gets a variety of new features with respect to CSS, File APIs, User Input, Graphics, Communication, Tools, Web Components.
Microsoft launches an Open Source Machine Learning Toolkit- Microsoft recently launched a toolkit for developers called Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMLT). The toolkit simplifies machine learning work across distributed systems by allowing models to be trained on multiple nodes at once.

Windows 10 receives its first major update- The update includes a number of fixes and UI changes that were originally planned for the final version of Windows 10. One of the noticeable differences is a new colored title bar for desktop apps. Microsoft has improved the context menus throughout the OS to make them a little bigger and darker to match the general theme. Another big change is the introduction of Skype integration with dedicated Messaging and Skype Video apps. They’re both available from the Windows Store, and they’re designed to offer basic access to messaging, audio, and video calls without having to download the full version of Skype.

Microsoft reduces One Drive storage and removes the Unlimited option- Microsoft recently announced that it no longer plans to offer unlimited storage for Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers; instead, those people now get 1TB of storage for their money. Starting in 2016, Microsoft will replace its $2-a-month 100GB and $4-a-month 200GB plans for new users on OneDrive with a 50GB plan that costs $2 per month.

Windows 10 launched recently and has been downloaded million times by zillions of users. Let’s weigh up the difference between windows 10, windows 8.1 and 7, with a large number of Pros and significant number of Cons, where each of the versions has its own advantage.

Support
The key reason for getting the latest edition of Windows is Microsoft will support it for longer than both Windows 7 and Windows 8. The Windows Lifecycle page breaks this down into two sections: Mainstream Support and Extended Support. Mainstream Support is the deadline for adding new features and functionality which makes it less crucial, but Extended Support is when Microsoft will stop supporting the platform with security updates. As you will see Windows 10 gives five more years Extended Support over Windows 7 and two more years over Windows 8:
The extended support cut-off dates for Windows are as follows:

Windows 7 Service Pack 1: January 14th, 2020
Windows 8.1: January 10th, 2023
Windows 10: October 14th, 2025

User Interface for Desktops and Laptops
Windows 7 certainly set the benchmark for a relatively consistent and understandable user interface, although its key strength now is its familiarity. You know where to find things, you know what sort of results you’re going to get from the Start Menu search bar and you understand the oddities of Windows Explorer, Task manager and Control Panel.

This familiarity is an asset compared to Windows 8.1. Microsoft’s huge push for touchscreen devices and tablets left desktop users feeling not only abandoned, but hugely confused. Windows 8.1 has better multi-monitor support than Windows 7. Unlike 7, 8.1 have a taskbar on each screen showing only those apps running on that screen, plus each monitor can have its own distinct wallpaper and each screen given its own customizable wallpaper.
Windows 10 strikes a better balance here, with its Continuum mode neatly morphing the compact Start menu into a bigger and touch-friendly Start screen as needed. The Start menu’s links to the newly tweaked File Explorer as well as lists of recently used apps and your pinned folders are all huge plus points. Answering the prayers of those of us with multiple monitors running at different resolutions, there are now settings for scaling text and the UI on a per-monitor basis. Even if you only have one display, such as when you’re using a laptop on the move, Windows 10 now has built-in multiple, so juggling lots of windows and tasks is still easier than ever.

User Interface for Tablets
Windows 7 only has the most basic and simple interface elements and optimizations for touchscreens, which was pretty easily beaten and overtook by iPad and iOS which extensively dominated the tablet market. This led to the gradual improvement of touchscreen interface in Windows 8, but it puzzled a lot of people as it had so little space for keyboard and mouse users. Windows 8.1 added a few tweaks, nips and tucks, such as the ability to run Modern interface apps in a resizable window, but its display scaling problems made usable high-resolution Windows 8.1 tablets almost impossible.

Windows 10, while not perfect, is a big improvement. An improved touchscreen gesture allows you to flick between applications quickly and easily than before. If you have a hybrid device and dock it to a keyboard, Windows 10 should recognize this change of state and switch back to its touchpad-friendly desktop mode thanks to Continuum mode, although whether this will work on your device will depend on whether its manufacturers has released drivers that support this.

Security
Windows versions 7 and 8.1 are in no way less secure than the latest version, but Windows 10 has moved both home and enterprise security significantly both in terms of local device security and the security of online services.

Surprisingly, the version 10 has Hello, which lets the users to log-in using a fingerprint, face or iris scan instead of a mundane alpha numerical password. While computers with the necessary biometric scanning hardware built-in are now out dated, it is helpful that more will become available quickly given that Hello is built into Windows 10 from the very start.

Performance
While anecdotally we have heard of PCs running a lot quicker having been upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, actual performance benchmarks on our test PC with 8GB of memory and an Intel Core i5 4690K processor show no difference.

More important is the addition of DirectX 12 support, a low-level graphics API designed to increase 3D graphics performance with lower overheads while giving developers more control over how hardware is used. This is most important for gamers though as most professional 3D graphics software relies on the competing OpenGL API instead. Although it’s still very early days for DirectX 12 with few titles currently taking advantage of it, if you’re looking for the best 3D gaming performance available the Windows 10 is likely your best bet as DirectX 12 won’t be available for Windows 8.1 or 7.

Search
The search option is turning vividly important in Operating systems especially with messy desktops and haphazardly organized documents and folders.

Windows 7 had a terrific incomparable search function built in the Start Menu, finding files, docs and folders on network shares and those which are stored locally. But, it wasn’t perfect, especially if you needed to refresh search results, but it was useful enough that users were surprised that Windows 8 abandoned this exquisite search ability. It also adopted a more complicated Start screen-based search interface and integrated web search results from Bing and app store suggestions. These superfluous additions were far of an annoyance than being convenient.
Windows 10 is still based on Bing search engine and also looks for apps in the Windows Store. Even more annoyingly these results are placed ahead of search results for installed apps, files and folders with no option to change this order. Amazingly, the ability to search your computer and network shares simultaneously is still missing. Its Cortana, the personal voice based assistant feature grabbed from Windows Phone, which is currently more of a mixed bag due to the limited perfection of its suggestions and search results, additionally has the ability to search by voice and is both impressive and useful for differently abled people, especially.

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