I confess I'm not always kind to Microsoft. They stumble and bumble and often make bad decisions, and as such make a great target for a blogger like me, but looking back at the announcements they've made over the last couple of weeks, when you add it all up, they at least seem to be trying to move forward.
They may be awkward at times (as geeks often are), but the Zune HD, the CodePlex Foundation , and the newly announced Bing visual search tool all add up to a good week for the behemoth from Redmond. In fact, when you put it all together, even the most ardent of the anti-Microsoft ilk, would have to admit, it's a nice effort.
While this isn't a perfect device by any means, the design alone is a huge step forward from its clunky (and indisputably ugly) predecessors. This one looks sleek and sexy, and from a functionality standpoint, it has a lot going for it. Sure, they should have avoided those pre-roll ads in the free apps I wrote about the other day in Microsoft Ads Mess with Fuzzy Zune HD Feelings , but this is a device that people will take a long look at this holiday season. It may end up being too little, too late from a market standpoint since Apple owns this space, but at least they're in the game now.
When I wrote DotNetNuke Co-founder Defends Role with Microsoft's CodePlex last week, I got some pretty passionate responses in my comments section, which show just how much Microsoft is mistrusted and frankly disliked because of its software and its past business practices. No matter how much they may try to convince the open source community that this project is completely independent, it carries the name Microsoft on the sponsorship name and as such it's going to be suspect.
Don't cry for Microsoft though; it made its own bed over the years, but on its face the CodePlex Foundation is at least an attempt to provide a useful service. The jury is still out on how independent and technology agnostic it is, and if open source community members will ever get past its understandable distrust for Microsoft, but they are at least putting it out there.
Bing Visual Search
Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due and the Bing visual search tool is neat technology, plain and simple. Sure, once again they undermine it by requiring users to install Silverlight, but if you can get passed that (and I know some of you can't), you will find a very cool way of searching. You can search by category such as Baseball or Billboard 100, then filter down. Do you want to see baseball's top pitchers or the best batter? Do you want to see the Number 1 songs from the 1960s? It provides a clean and easy to navigate interface and when you find what you want, clicking a picture takes you to a standard list of results.
As a writer I look for patterns and I try to report them to you. I've found a clear pattern here, and it shows a company looking to the future and trying to find its footing. While Microsoft still certainly has has a long way to go, they are hanging in and looking for an edge, and that bodes well for a competitive marketplace. As I've written in the past, we really gain nothing by completely weakened Microsoft, but an unchecked Google and Apple. And I don't think any of us want that.