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Microsoft is on a creative high

March 5, 2010

Microsoft has had a terrible last couple years. Windows Vista was a critical nightmare, the original Zune, challenger to the apple iPod, flopped on the market and they watched their Windows Mobile market share melt under the hotness that was the iPhone.   Apple saw a ripe opportunity and produced a series of slick commercials on tv poking fun at the windows system that was full of viruses, eventually slowed to a crawl , and was just (using a pop culture reference)  “2000 and late”. To apple’s credit, they rolled out hit after hit with the iPod, macbooks, iPhones and possibly the soon to be released iPad. (Read my thoughts on the apple Ipad). However, early last year,

My windows 7 desktop

Microsoft released a public beta of its new operating Windows 7  which simplified and breathed freshness into the stale windows environment. Boasting new features such as a revolutionized task bar, aero peek and a windows management system that ups the bar on apple’s expose, Windows 7 took the tech world by storm.  It has been ranked up to par with apple’s snow leopard as one of the best operating systems currently available and has currently sold over 90 million copies since it launched in October. (Full Windows 7 review via Engadget)

Instead of resting on their laurels, Microsoft went on to totally revamp the ugly first generation zune into one sexy, thin, mp3 player with a user interface that is nothing like the iPod Touch. (Zune HD review via Engadget).

Not only is the Zune HD a sleek music player with High Definition radio, apps, games,  internet browsing and an option to  output up to 1080p HD video to your tv, but the accompanying Zune desktop software rivals the over bloated iTunes with its easy to use interface and the killer feature : Zune Pass. The Zune Pass allows you download unlimited music for &14.95 a month while letting you keep 10 tracks each month!

Next up for Microsoft was to work on gaining back its lost Windows Mobile market share, a difficult feat considering the high popularity of the  iPhone. Nothing short of something brand new, innovative and different from the iPhone was going to wow the critics. Well wow the critics Microsoft did when they unveiled their new mobile operating system dubbed “Windows Phone Series 7” in Barcelona last Month. Presenting a total departure from Windows mobile as we know it,  it builds upon the Zune HD’s fantastic typographic ui with a twist.

Apps are organized into hubs according to similar functions, with tiles that show live updates instead of the typical rows of icons. The live Tiles display current information such as missed calls, new messages, weather etc. What is even more fantastic about the series 7 phone is that is has a Music hub that is essentially the Zune! Every cell phone is now a Zune player that syncs with the Zune desktop software and has access to all your music and Zune pass songs along with apps and games! Social networking is wonderfully implemented throughout the phone without needing a dedicated app to share photos and post updates.  Theres is a People Hub that aggregates your social networks into one neat box of updates, posts and latest pictures.

Oh wait, did I mention it has an X Box live hub? Read an exhaustive write up on ENGADGET.

Impressed yet? Microsoft seems to be on a roll here!  Sweetest of all these new products though is the newly rumoured Microsoft Courier. The Courier is a tablet that again sets itself apart from the competition. It sports dual screens and is held just like an open book. The Courier is designed with the artist or journal writer in mind, making it easy for pen inputting notes, sketching, tacking on post it notes and all the fun stuff you can do in a scrap book. This product has the potential to revolutionize the tablet market, especially for college students who can easily keep their class notes organized – think Microsoft OneNote in a specialized hardware.  Imagine the ability to read textbooks and ebooks easily just like a regular book!  Its light thin, sleek, sexy, innovative and I want it ASAP!

According to,

Courier will function as a “digital journal,” and it’s designed to be seriously portable: it’s under an inch thick, weighs a little over a pound, and isn’t much bigger than a 5×7 photo when closed. That’s a lot smaller than we expected — this new picture really puts it into perspective — and the internals apparently reflect that emphasis on mobility: rather than Windows 7, we’re told the Courier is built on Tegra 2 and runs on the same OS as the Zune HD, Pink, and Windows Mobile 7 Series.

A mock up of the Courier's interface

The possibilities here are endless. Blogging will certainly be even easier, with handwriting recognition, I can scribble my blog post on the go, attach photos, and then, share with the world.

Think about swiping through the pages of  GQ or Vogue magazine with interactive content, embeded videos, flash and multi touch- zooming in and out. This is going to be spectacular.

I know I am starting to sound like a Microsoft fanboy. Maybe I am a little. I love my windows 7 computer and I covet the upcoming windows phone 7 series. However I also love my ipod touch and Apple’s Snow Leopard is an exciting featured filled desktop OS. However give credit where it is due, Apple hasn’t innovated on design since the original iPhone. The new iPad is just a stretched out iPod Touch albeit with new touch gestures and extra apps taking advantage of the screen real estate. Sure they argue its all in the software but really what this is about  is content consumption. Apple is providing another device for users to be locked into the apple eco-system of apps, music, video and now ebook downloads with their credit card.  Essentially the iPad is useless without iTunes and its content. Non the less, without apple, Microsoft might have still been in a creative slump. Instead we are about to touch some truly awesome gadgets that will make us thank our lucky stars we’re born in these earthquake ridden times. Keep up the good work Microsoft.

*Some of these images are the property of the Engadget blog.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 5, 2010 1:33 pm

    You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. March 9, 2010 12:04 pm

    Sign me up for a Courier! I’m somewhat of a gadget geek too and I don’t consider myself a Apple fanboy (or girl). I think I’m like you, we happen to appreciate a good design, whether it’s MS or Apple.

  3. March 11, 2010 1:07 am

    Bing, XBOX Live (specially the recent integration with Sky), Office 10, Azure, Pivot are other examples of products that really shows how Microsoft’s doing lately.

    My opinion is: The secret is Feedback. Feedback is now the main center of all products basically and has been like that for the past two years I think (don’t have the exact range) and I’m sure they’ll impress us even more 4 days from now.

    Congratulations on your blog.

    (Good looking seeing that you took your time to go on the Windows Phone 7 Series Backstage. Look forward on seeing more of your comments there, since going there just for promotion ain’t the right move.)

    • March 11, 2010 10:03 am

      Yes, I firmly believe all companies can co-exist. I fear a world where only apple products dominate with no variability in the market. Competition increases innovation. Without it we’d have stale products and nothing to be excited about.

      @Bruno Santos
      I was going to mention Office 10, but since it hasn’t been released yet (I am using the beta and its great) and the cloud based office live isn’t up and running yet, I didn’t. However I may write up a post on cloud computing in the future!

      You’re absolutely right about feedback. Microsoft has started listening to its customers and thats partly why those Windows 7 commercials are so effective too. “I am a PC and Windows 7 was my idea.” Brilliant!

      P.S. I am on the backstage for the long run 🙂 Forgive my shameless self promotion though! Followed you on twitter!

  4. March 17, 2010 9:05 am

    Thx for visiting my blog and commenting.Thought I might return the favor and found this article interesting. Looking for a “pad” possible next year for when i am away from the desk and hope many companys provide competition to apple. I have a nano and have found it works well for what I need, extremely portable media machine and have been using Itunes since version 4. Quite awhile now,lol!

    Don’t want to rely on just one company for everything though and am very happy with Win 7, unlike the xbox 360s that I owned and kept breaking. I have a wait and see attitude when it comes to new stuff. I do not want to be locked into anything that might end up fail.


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