Foley on Microsoft

Microsoft's Biggest Moments of 2010

It's December, and that means one thing for us pundits: It's time for our annual look-back and look-ahead columns. This year, I'm trying a slightly different tack.

I'm combining both perspectives into a single list of things that happened in 2010 that are likely to have a big impact on Microsoft, its partners and its customers in 2011.

This list is not ranked in order of importance. But all of these developments are going to impact Microsoft products and strategies in the coming year, in my opinion.

  • Bill's guys are out, Steve's guys are in: When Chairman Bill Gates relinquished his day-to-day duties at Microsoft in 2008, I predicted we'd see the waning power of "Bill's guys" -- the geeks -- and the rise of "Steve's guys" -- the MBAs and suits. In 2010, that prediction came to pass, with the departure of more than a few big-name 'Softies, including Entertainment & Devices whiz kid J Allard; Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie; Live Labs chief Gary Flake; and robotics expert Tandy Trower. I'm expecting 2011 to bring more of the same.
  • HTML5 is the new black: Back in March, when Microsoft first showed off an early preview of its Internet Explorer 9 browser, it was clear the company had gotten some HTML5 religion. Fast forward six months, and surprise: Microsoft is at the top of the pack in HTML5 compliance, and the company is backing HTML5 (not the Silverlight runtime) as the only real way to provide true cross-platform compatibility across all devices. I think we'll see the final Internet Explorer 9 in the first half of next year. Microsoft still has lots to do on the mobile front around HTML5, though.
  • Microsoft really is "all in" with the cloud: The gauntlet has been thrown down. Every Microsoft product, going forward, will have some cloud element to it. In 2011, Windows Azure is going to be fleshed out considerably, and Office 365, Microsoft's updated hosted-application suite, will be worth watching.
  • Slateless in Seattle: Remember Ballmer's derision of the iPhone the first year it came out? It came back to bite (and spur) the 'Softies. History is repeating itself. This time, Ballmer and company are pooh-poohing slates -- primarily the iPad, but also the growing cadre of Android-based devices coming to market. Microsoft and its partners aren't going to field anything that could be remotely considered an iPad competitor until mid-2011 or so (at best). Seems like a slate reset is in order.
  • Consumerization of IT remains the buzz phrase: I'm not a true believer in the notion that happy consumers mean happy enterprise users. The biggest Microsoft development efforts and marketing launches in 2010 were consumer-focused: Windows Phone 7, the Bing refresh, Kinect and Windows Live. In 2011, the 'Softie consumer obsession (which is of concern to some enterprise customers and partners) is likely to continue.
  • Open source goes quiet: This past year has been an odd one on the open source front for Microsoft. The sentiment that Linux patent infringers must be punished is still alive and well at Microsoft, but the number of public jabs and jeers about open source has waned in the past year. So, too, however, has Microsoft's direct participation in a number of open source efforts. I'm sensing a trend.
  • Windows remains king: Forget "developers, developers, developers." Microsoft's rallying cry in 2010 was "Windows 7, Windows 7, Windows 7." And with good reason: 240 million licenses sold and lots of potential enterprise conversions anticipated for 2011. We know a bit about Microsoft's original Windows 8 plans (thanks to a leaked slide deck from earlier this year), and that app stores and app virtualization are likely to figure prominently when the first previews go live in 2011. But as Ballmer himself said, Windows 8 is Microsoft's riskiest bet. I'm still wondering whether that means we'll see any major new features or functionality that we don't know about yet.


About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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