Microsoft in 2013: Big changes, big surprises, and a unifying vision
The current crop of tools (apart from OneNote) are really file viewers with some basic editing features. But as Microsoft starts to deliver more services we're going to see more in the way of cross-platform apps, especially in 2014 with the "Gemini" wave of Office clients, which will include a tablet-friendly touch design and should see full iPad and Android tablet Office clients alongside Windows Store apps.
A cross-platform Microsoft was showcased by the announcement that the company would partner with Xamarin, giving MSDN subscribers access to Xamarin's cross-platform development tools from inside Visual Studio. With Xamarin using C# to deliver native apps on Android and iOS, developers using Microsoft's tools are now able to target iPad, iPhone, Android, MacOS, Windows Phone and Windows from the same project. While they'll need to develop device specific user interfaces, it simplifies building apps for multiple devices - without having to learn extra languages.
Internet Explorer. For web developers, Internet Explorer took a big jump forward in 2013, with the arrival of IE 11. Expanding IE's standards support, there's now support for WebGL, bringing real-time 3D graphics to Microsoft's browsers. With increased standards support it's easier for web developers to build one site that works with all browsers -- as long as they stop trying to treat IE 11 as if it was still IE 6 (after all, Windows XP ends support in early 2014).
2013 was definitely an eventful year for Microsoft. With a new CEO likely to arrive in the early part of 2014 there's scope for even more change to come. It'll take time for the reorganization and the One Microsoft policy to take hold, but as they do, we're going to see more results from a functionally focused Microsoft where one part of the company can build on the work of another.
The future is a world where consumer and enterprise businesses become harder and harder to distinguish from each other, and Microsoft's ability to blur the lines between the two will be vital to its future. With Azure learning from Xbox, and Windows from Bing, there's scope for a cross-fertilization that will reshape how we look at Microsoft, and how we think about technology in the enterprise.
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