Microsoft Consumer Innovation

I recently came across an article on CNN Money titled “Microsoft is a dying consumer brand”. There are people out there that aren’t fans of Microsoft but what’s interesting about this article is that it was written days before Kinect and Windows Phone 7 general availability. And yes, of course I’m a little biased, but I personally think that Microsoft has never been more consumer focused and is releasing some exciting technology! I thought I’d share my top five products that highlight Microsoft’s commitment to consumers:

1. Windows 7. I haven’t found one person who hasn’t liked Windows 7. It’s fast, intuitive and beautiful to use. I have a handful of friends who moved from Mac OS to Windows 7. At first, they partitioned their HD and installed Windows 7 alongside Mac OS; eventually they moved completely to Windows 7. Besides Office 2010, which I consider the killer application for Windows, the other application suite that works great with Windows 7, is free and doesn’t get a lot of air time is Windows Live Essentials 2011. I highly recommend it! The latest version of Messenger, for example, integrates with Facebook allowing you to chat with your friends through Messenger while they are chatting through Facebook. Very cool!

2. Internet Explorer 9 beta. This is the release of Internet Explorer I’ve been waiting for! IE 8.0 was a good release; IE 9.0 beta is a fantastic release. It’s fast, clean and intuitive. For a beta product, it’s remarkably stable (like Windows 7 beta was) and I’ve installed it on all my home computers and my work laptop. You can learn more about and download IE 9.0 beta here.

3. Windows Phone 7. I’m counting the days until I get my own Windows Phone 7! I’ve played with it but still have a few days left before I get to buy one. Based on early reviews, it’s not just Microsoft employees who think it offers a unique, compelling user experience that’s different from other smart phones out there – and that includes the iPhone. What makes the Windows Phone 7 special and different from other smartphones, beyond the user experience, is its intuitive integration with Facebook, availability through different carriers beyond AT&T and unlimited Zune music subscription. And while other smartphones tout a great mobile search experience, I think the integrated Bing experience is better than iPhone’s.

Critics have commented on the lack of specific features like copy & paste and lack of 100s of thousands of applications. And while both are true, copy & paste will be available as an update in a matter of weeks (early 2011) and as for applications, it’s just a matter of time. Developing Windows Phone 7 apps is as easy as developing any .NET/Silverlight application. In fact, I’m developing a Poker Calculator Windows mobile app right now on my free time that I’m looking to publish in the next few weeks. I’ll blog when it’s complete!

4. Bing. I’m a big fan of Bing. More people still use Google, but using Bing is a great experience. It has as good relevancy as Google, but goes a step beyond in certain areas like user experience (great pictures), social search and booking travel. If you’re like me and enjoy the new Bing pictures every day, learn how you can make them your Windows  wallpaper here.

5. Kinect. This is innovation at its best. And while some critics argue this is similar to the Wii, this is at a whole different level. I had a chance to check it out – and even though I’m not a gamer, I enjoyed the experience tremendously! This will definitely be a big hit with casual gamers and kids. I’ve seen some critics complain about the “space” requirement, but if that’s the biggest complaint, I don’t think it’s a big deal whatsoever. And looking into the future, in my opinion, the research behind the Kinect hardware & software motion sensors has the potential to lead to all sorts of new scenarios beyond gaming. Wouldn’t it be great if this became the next natural interface with your TV?

So is Microsoft a dying consumer brand? I think these 5 examples demonstrate it clearly isn’t; in fact, I think it’s on the rise. As for my opinion on Microsoft’s response to the iPad, I’m confident that Microsoft will respond with a great experience for everyone that will deliver a great tablet user experience with the power of a PC at an affordable price. I can wait for that!