Tech in 2016: Microsoft dominated tech this year; here's how it did it

In all of the madness of 2016, Microsoft’s work stood out like a shining beacon for the tech masses.

It’s been a rough year for tech companies in 2016, particularly device manufacturers. Samsung’s hopes for the year literally blew up in its face, the only thing that Apple did was strip out functionality and Google’s Pixel is mired in controversy.

In all of this madness, Microsoft’s work in 2016 stood out like a shining beacon for the tech masses. I exaggerate of course, but you have to admit, the Surface Studio is the most stunning device of 2016 and the company’s work on Windows 10 is enviable. The company’s done so much more.

Here’s how Microsoft won 2016.

Developers developers developers…

How do we talk about 2016 for Microsoft and not talk about developers?

Steve Balmer’s infectious enthusiasm may not have actually achieved much in 2008, but Satya Nadella’s calm and composed announcements at Build 2016 were the best bits of news that developers ever heard.

Cross-platform development from one platform (Windows), Xamarin integration, Visual Studio and PowerShell on Mac, Bash shell in Windows, Microsoft’s contribution to open-source, the bot framework, Azure integration, the list is endless.

Microsoft’s message to developers in 2016 was very clear, “We’re here for you.”

Surface Studio: To die for

Admit it, the Surface Studio was the most exciting gadget of 2016. The idea was simple: Build the PC equivalent of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. And that’s exactly what Microsoft did.

The device boasts of a stunning 28-inch, 4.5K display. That’s 13.5 million pixels of pure awesome. It’s also one of the thinnest displays around. Better still, the colour environment can be switched between sRGB and DCI-P3 on the fly!

That gorgeous display is driven by a sixth gen Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB of RAM, an Nvidia 980M GPU, and up to 2TB of storage. That aforementioned gorgeous display rests on a “zero gravity” hinge that makes it trivially easy to adjust the angle of the display.

This PC comes with full support for the Surface Pen and a rather unusual accessory called the Surface Dial. Read all about it here.

Gaming: Play anywhere!

There is currently no gaming platform that offers the cross-platform capabilities that Microsoft enabled with its Xbox Play Anywhere project.

The premise is simple; you purchase a game for Xbox One and play that game on PC as well. Games can be streamed to PC and, as a bonus, the Xbox One can stream games to a PC-connected Oculus Rift headset.

The kinks in UWP (Universal Windows Platform) haven’t been ironed out yet, but you have to admit, the promise is, well, promising.

Microsoft has also reiterated its commitment to the #PCMasterRace, insisting that at the very least, first party titles will come to Windows and Xbox simultaneously.

I’ll admit, Microsoft still doesn’t know how to make great games, at least by Sony’s standards, but it’s getting there and has started on the groundwork.

HoloLens: AR for the win

Think augmented reality (AR) and you’ll think HoloLens. The development kit costs $3000 (that’s over Rs 2,00,000), but it just doesn’t matter. Microsoft’s HoloLens demos have been exceedingly cool, to say the least.

Build 2016 showed off some compelling use cases for AR, including gaming, and while I love the idea of VR, I don’t think it has the same potential as AR. No way, no how. There have been other attempts at bringing AR to life, but so far, Microsoft’s the only company that’s shown us its true potential.

Windows 10: Progress

I never thought I’d say this, but Windows 10 is actually shaping up to be a robust and *gasp* exciting OS.

Bear with me on this. Windows has always been a functional and useful OS, but I don’t think anyone can ever say that they’ve been excited to use a Windows OS. Linux has always had geek appeal while macOS has always held the eye of iFans and a certain breed of developers and designers. It was cool.

Windows was never cool. It existed, it was functional, it was powerful, we understood it and we worked with it. It was a tool, a very good one, but still a tool. You don't think a screwdriver is cool? Do you?

The early days of Windows 10 were rather rocky and it’s still not perfect. There are still bugs aplenty, the ads on the lock screen are unwanted and syncing issues still persist.

That said, Cortana is the best digital assistant since Google Now (Siri is great, but she still has trouble with our accent), Windows Ink has shown what a real pen input is all about (Apple’s Pencil is somewhat boring) and Windows Edge is, dare I say it, actually quite nice now. In fact, Microsoft brought biometric authentication (Windows Hello) to Windows 10 long before Apple realised it could put TouchID on Mac.

Windows 10 is not the best OS, we all have our preferences, but it’s been the most exciting OS of 2016 by far. In fact, Windows is actually cool again.

No, Microsoft is actually cool again.

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