Foley on Microsoft

12 Microsoft Hot Buttons for 2012

Mary Jo Foley on what she'll be watching for from Microsoft in 2012.

This isn't your typical January predictions column. This is more like my Post-It list of things I'll be watching for from the 'Softies in the coming year. It's a scary but potentially exciting reminder of just how crazy-busy 2012 is going to be for Microsoft customers, partners and watchers.

Last year was an "in-between" year for Microsoft. There weren't a whole lot of brand-new product launches -- but 2012 will be the exact opposite. Can Microsoft deliver? How well? Will it be enough to appease employees, Wall Street and users with Apples in their eyes? Here's my short list of Microsoft topics for 2012, in no particular order:

  1. Windows: When will the beta of Windows 8 hit? (Latest I've heard is sometime in February.) Will it RTM in time for holiday 2012 sales? (It had better.) Will the x86 and ARM versions remain in lockstep? How will the 'Softies handle the Windows 7-Windows 8 transition?
  2. Office Client: Office 15 is Office 2012, which means preview, beta and final all happen this year. What will the expected Metro version of Office for Windows 8 on ARM look like?
  3. Public-Cloud Deliverables: Office 365, Microsoft's public-cloud complement to Office, is selling like gangbusters, the 'Softies say. Windows Azure, Microsoft's public-cloud version of Windows, has been less successful. Will Microsoft take Windows Azure more in the Amazon direction and add additional Infrastructure as a Service functionality to boost uptake?
  4. Windows Phone: There allegedly are two updates (minor and major) to the mobile OS coming in 2012: "Tango" and "Apollo." Apollo (aka Windows Phone 8) is the big one, and possibly when Microsoft switches the Embedded kernel for more of a MinWin/true Windows one. What will that mean for developers and users?
  5. The Skype-ization of Microsoft: Watch for Skype functionality to begin rolling out in Lync, Hotmail, Windows Phone, Xbox and maybe even Office.
  6. Database Mania: SQL Server 2012, with its new per-core pricing and licensing model, is due for launch early this year. Microsoft is looking to smooth the on-premises/cloud database path with its SQL Azure Data Sync technology.
  7. System Center 2012: Word is the launch will happen at the Microsoft Management Summit in April. Don't be surprised to see Microsoft try to simplify its complex systems-management story by launching all 10 or so System Center products together -- and selling them as a suite, instead of piecemeal.
  8. Xbox Next: Will it be a whole new console or just a new model of Xbox 360 in 2012? Microsoft will continue pushing the message that Xbox isn't just for gaming, but is a TV watcher's dream, too.
  9. Internet Explorer: IE9 has faced some tough competition, especially from Chrome, in the past year. IE10 will get a boost by being bundled with Windows 8. But it needs to be faster and lighterweight to fend off the fast-growing Google alternative.
  10. Kinect: In 2012, the big news for Kinect will be on the Windows front. Microsoft is slated to unveil new Kinect hardware for PCs that will work at closer ranges, as well as to make Kinect for Windows available to developers who want to create commercially available apps.
  11. Silverlight: Microsoft has done an abysmal job of explaining what it's planning to do with Silverlight. How will (or won't) the development framework part of Silverlight move forward?
  12. Legal Wars: Microsoft has been on a tear with its Android patent licensing deals and warnings in 2011, but that hasn't helped it gain market share … so far. Will legal threats curb Android appetites in 2012?

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's the author of "Microsoft 2.0" (John Wiley & Sons, 2008), which examines what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.


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