January 2, 2013 in Business

‘Epic’ or not, 2012 key year at Microsoft

Besides self-described transition, it revamped, updated, debuted
Janet I. Tu McClatchy Tribune
 
Associated Press photo

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gives his presentation Oct. 25 at the launch of Microsoft Windows 8 in New York. Ballmer described 2012 as “the most epic in Microsoft history.”
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been known to use hyperbolic adjectives, but was he on the mark when he described 2012 as “the most epic in Microsoft history”?

It was the year, after all, in which the company launched Windows 8, a radical revamp of its flagship operating system.

It was also a year when Microsoft launched or previewed new versions of nearly all its products and services; debuted its first branded computing device, the Surface tablet; and announced it was moving from focusing almost primarily on software toward becoming a devices-and-services company.

So how epic did 2012 turn out to be?

“There’s a term in aviation: V1. It’s when an aircraft has reached a velocity at which it has to take off,” said Wes Miller, an analyst at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

In 2012, Microsoft’s efforts were all about achieving V1.

Here’s a look at significant events in Microsoft’s 2012 “epic,” “V1” year.

• Windows 8 launch: The moment the entire company had been working toward for years came Oct. 26, when Microsoft launched Windows 8 and Windows RT (the version of Windows 8 designed to run on ARM-based chips – primarily mobile devices).

Reports have been mixed on how successful they’ve been so far. Microsoft said 40 million Windows 8 licenses were sold in its first month, outpacing Windows 7 in upgrades.

• Surface launch: Microsoft built much buzz for the late-October launch of Surface, the company’s first branded computing device.

But the buzz didn’t necessarily translate into big sales or exclusively glowing reviews. In fact, the reviews were mixed, with most praising the hardware but, ironically, dinging the software.

Microsoft has not released sales figures for Surface, which initially had been sold just in Microsoft retail stores and online.

• Windows Phone 8 launch: Microsoft launched the latest version of its 2-year-old smartphone platform at an October event designed to showcase how its tiled design and features can make it a very personalized device.

It’s too soon to say, though, whether Windows Phone 8 will allow Microsoft to significantly increase its smartphone market share from about 3 percent in the U.S. and 2 percent worldwide.

• Device-and-Services company: Ballmer spoke often in 2012 about Microsoft’s transition into a devices-and-services company.

It made several significant steps in this direction, including focusing on Office as a subscription service and launching the Xbox SmartGlass application, which attempts to better connect the company’s devices to the content offered through its Xbox console and Xbox Live service.

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