Cock of the walk in 2012, Microsoft’s hubris came ‘round to bite ‘em in the tail feathers for 2013. MS attempted to reforge the look of PCs with Windows 8. It would prove to be yet another nail the in the coffin of an already faltering PC market. The company would backtrack on their vision of the future slightly with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade, but even this was done with a casual arrogance. The update was not issued via the traditional Windows Update service, but as a separate download buried in the new (and mostly unused) Windows Store. While 8.1 did, in fact, bring back the much missed Start button, the button did not actually open the Start Menu as in previous version. The new Start button instead brings users back to the tablet-like Windows Start Screen many updaters sought to avoid in the first place. While the upcoming Windows 8.2 update promises to restore the Start menu this time, it is unlikely that any damage control at this point will salvage the operating system’s reputation. While Windows is unlikely to usurped as the face of PCs in the near future, there is blood in the water and the sharks are circling. The end of 2013 saw a huge push from Apple with their latest Mac operating system and Valve, a retailer and infrequent developer of video games (of all things), is launching their own custom, Linux based OS.
A similar swagger marred the launch of Microsoft’s video game console, the Xbox One. While the Xbox 360 wasn’t exactly a sensation worldwide, the system’s debut, streamed live over the Internet, focused squarely on stereotypical American college students fond of sports and TV. You know who’s not fond of stereotypical American college students fond of sports and TV? Geeky folks who watch online press conferences about video game consoles. The nerdy masses took the the ‘Net brandishing virtual pitchforks and feelings of being betrayed by a brand they helped build. Things only got worse when questions about the system’s always online requirement, questionable DRM scheme, and mandatory connection to the Kinect camera were answered with “Don’t like it? Buy an Xbox 360,” and #DealWithIt. About the time the first preorder numbers came in, Microsoft would have a change of heart. The company reversed course on all these issues in what became known as the “Xbox 180” shortly before the system’s launch.
But wait! That’s not all! Windows Phone still exists. And no one seems to care. Windows Phone arrived practically stillborn on the market with popular app makers simply refusing to devote time coding for the fledgling platform. This lack of support surfaced most famously in a months long spat between MS and Google. Lacking developer support from Google, Microsoft created their own YouTube app for Windows Phone. It was blacklisted a day later. It seems that Google requires all applications utilizing YouTube to be created in HTML5. Windows Phone is not capable of such deployment of this up-and-coming standard and MS’s version of the app had been created using the system’s native code (Ironically, just as Google did for their own Android app). After nearly two months, Microsoft was forced to create a bare bones web player for YouTube and leave the OS devoid of meaningful integration with the giant video service.
Microsoft Surface also contended with customer and developer apathy throughout 2013. Worse, poor branding sowed confusion between the Surface Pro (The one you want because it’s a laptop in tablet form) and Surface RT (The one you don’t want because it’s a paperweight in tablet form). While the Pro at least gathered some appreciation amongst those in the know, MS was forced to write off $900 million in unsold Surface RT stock. Take that, landfill! Microsoft plans to alleviate the market confusion in the future by simply dropping the RT moniker from the under-supported little Arm tablets.Yep, having a Surface 2 and a Surface Pro 2 will sure clean up all that product confusion. #FacePalm
And through it all, Microsoft hemorrhaged talent. George Andreas, Steve Coast, Mark Gillett, Don Mattrick, and CEO Steve Ballmer are just a few of the headline worthy departures in 2013.
Check back tomorrow as our pick for the number three tech turkey of the year sees how many high-profile product launches it can bungle.