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Verge 2018 tech report card: Microsoft



Microsoft's 2017 was a year focused on improving the errors it left in 2016. During the last 12 months, Microsoft's 2018 has been a year of growth. Microsoft is now a top five PC manufacturer in the United States with surface, revenue, and cloud growth up, and the software giant even overheard Apple from becoming the world's most valuable company. It has also been a year of proof that the difficult changes made by CEO Satya Nadella are beginning to pay off.

Microsoft started the year in a difficult position as many of its PC partners. Meltdown and Specter security errors revealed basic processor model issues over the past 20 years, and Intel, AMD, Microsoft, and many others had to encrypt to issue software updates to protect computers. While Intel and others kept quiet about the real results of the errors, Microsoft led the way to transparency and fixes. Microsoft even released emergency updates to fix Intel's buggy Specter patches. It was a turbulent start to the year, and a distraction that could have been involved in some of the Windows quality issues we saw through 201

8.

Due to some of these issues, another set of Windows-related distractions occurred.

Microsoft announced another major reorganization in March, causing former Windows boss Terry Myerson to leave the company and Microsoft cut Windows into two different layers. The core Windows platform team has now moved closer to Microsoft's cloud and AI work, while a separate division called "Experiences and Devices" will look for Windows client releases that you see on laptops and devices. It's a great shakeup, and the effects will feel much more in 2019 and later.

Meltdown, Specter and Windows reorg change all came just like Microsoft was working on two major updates for Windows 10 this year, and it's fair to say they didn't go very smoothly. Microsoft delayed the update to Windows 10 in April 2018 due to the last-minute Blue Screen of Death issues, and then had to fix problems with desktop and Chrome cabinets after it was shipped to more than 600 million machines. Microsoft then released its update for Windows 10 in October 2018 before it was disconnected after some users reported missing files. These problems should have been discovered in testing with the public, and it turned out that testers had reported the problems months before.

Microsoft is facing a major test for Windows 10 quality in 2019, and the company has promised to focus on this after a buggy year.

2018 has also been a year on the surface. Microsoft revealed its surface hub 2 in May, with a stunning 84-inch display, thin fittings and new standing orientation. It looks like it's designed for an office built in the future, but the hardware will begin to ship next year. Microsoft also focused on smaller hardware this year in the form of Surface Go. The $ 399 tablet contains a 10-inch screen, and is actually a smaller version of the Surface Pro with a less powerful processor. The sale seems to be heading in the right direction, with Microsoft CFO Amy Hood revealing that Surface revenue this past quarter has been driven by Surface Book 2 and Surface Go sales.

In October, Microsoft held a hardware event for the Surface. A new Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 was announced with completely black surfaces, and Microsoft has also updated its all-in-one Surface Studio PC with some sophisticated hardware enhancements. The big surprise was Surface Headphones, with built-in Cortana support. Although the new Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 lack USB-C, Microsoft's Surface Headphones are powered by USB-C and have up to 15 hours of battery life. They are a good first bet from Microsoft.


Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

While Microsoft revealed a lot of new surface hardware this year, we didn't see a rumored update of the Xbox Elite controller or mysterious "pocketable" surface device. Instead, Microsoft revealed an Xbox Adaptive Controller earlier this year, designed for people with disabilities, even down to the ease of opening the packaging. This new controller was the biggest Xbox hardware campaign this year, just as the company is preparing next-generation consoles. However, Microsoft focuses on services beyond just consoles. Microsoft's new XCloud game drive service will stream Xbox games to PCs, consoles, and mobile devices. Public trials will start in 2019, and Microsoft has built custom data center hardware to compete with other gaming streaming services such as GeForce Now, PlayStation Now, Shadow and Liquid Sky.

Microsoft also used parts of 2018 that focus on key partnerships, acquisitions, and basic platform changes. Microsoft bought GitHub for $ 7.5 billion this year in a deal that sees it controlling a big code name that has become very popular with developers and companies offering entire projects, documentation and code. Developers take a wait and see approach to how Microsoft must carefully manage the GitHub platform and community.

Microsoft and Amazon also formed a closer partnership this year, which led to the integration of Cortana and Alexa. It's an ideal time when Cortana has fallen behind Google Assistant and Alexa, and it's not clear what the future of Microsoft's digital assistant is now that the company's Cortana boss has gone. This partnership has expanded to Alexa on the Xbox, and even Microsoft is preparing to sell Amazon's Echo devices in its stores. Microsoft and Amazon are still struggling against larger stocks on the cloud server market, though.

In what was somewhat surprising, Microsoft formed an unlikely alliance with Google this year. The software giant replaces its Edge browser window engine to the Chromium project – a major feature that improves Edge's web compatibility, which means Microsoft engineers need to work with open source Google engineers. Microsoft is committed to bringing improvements to Chrome that want the Chrome browser running on Windows. Microsoft has also created its 60,000 open source software to help Linux. It's a move that sees Microsoft join the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open source patent group designed to protect Linux from patent law. With Microsoft embracing Android as the mobile equivalent of Windows, we can start seeing even more surprise partners in 2019 and later.

The years of Microsoft look like one of sophistication. The company has renewed its focus on winning back power users who care about Windows and productivity. Microsoft has been missing the Xbox exclusive through 2018, so it will need a solid offer for its next generation console. The same power user focus extends to the Xbox, where Microsoft has a multi-studio push to create more Xbox exclusive games by providing game studios in a game that places the company to the next Xbox vs PlayStation console war. We also see that Android apps from your phone appear on Windows next year, and a much greater focus on design across Windows, Office, Surface and more.

Final grade: B

B
2018 Degree [19659019] Verge 2018 report card: Microsoft

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  • Gold stars
    • Difficult games that start to pay
    • Edge moves to Chromium
    • Xbox Adaptive Controller

Need improvement

  • Windows 10 had a buggy year
  • Surface USB C support still missing
  • Cortana has gone MIA

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