I spent the last two days in Redmond, invited by Microsoft (hey, they seems to be interested in Social TV, that is a good sign...).
As you probably know, I have never been a fan of Microsoft. In the early days of Funambol, they were the enemy. It was us and them. Open Source against the Evil Monopoly...
It was easy.
I even remember a Microsoft conference I was invited to attend in San Francisco, just the day after they announced that Linux was infringing on 325 of their patents. I showed up with a box full of t-shirts with a huge "325 more reasons to love open source". It was a big success :-) and I am told a lot of the Microsoft open source guys still have one of my t-shirts...
Microsoft was evil, the monopoly, invincible. They were about to do on mobile what they did on every other market. We needed to stop them.
I am not sure if I actually did anything, but they did not make it in mobile. Open Source won. They now look like the underdog. Which is amazing...
Now, I always love the underdog. With Apple looking more evil than ever, Facebook being a close second and Google a question mark, Microsoft has started to look a lot better.
Before leaving for Redmond, I bumped into the following video.
I know, it is hard to believe it is a Microsoft video. But it is. They really say "IE sucks less". That's their marketing slogan.
I believe it is brilliant. I am now considering installing IE 10 on my desktop PC. I swear.
Then I came here and they showed me a bunch of new stuff. They talked about Windows 8, Typescript (which is a very cool open source project), their plans around device management (wow) and a lot more. I played with the Surface with its weird keyboards, which surprisingly work pretty well.
All of a sudden, I realized that Microsoft is a company which is innovating. For real.
Think about Kinect. I am not sure there has been anything comparable lately, when it comes to innovations touching the consumers (Google and the cars that drive themselves are probably better, but the technology is just a prototype, and I am always scared when I pass one of them on the highway...).
Think about Windows 8. You really need balls to merge the desktop and tablet paradigm. I am not convinced it is going to work, but they are not afraid to try. For a giant, it is a huge gamble. It is amazing just to see them making this move.
Of course, they have plenty of issues, all over the place. For example, Windows Phone is completely separate from Windows 8, although they look similar. If you are a developer in the second screen space, you think mobile+tablet, as in the Apple world. At Microsoft, they live in two different domains, and this spells trouble for developers (and end users). The two platforms will not be in sync, with updates which will come at different times... They did the ballsy move to merge desktop and tablet, but they should bring phone in as well, pushing politics aside.
There are more examples like this. However, they are minor.
If I look at the big picture, one thing is clear to me after two days in Redmond: it is actually true that Microsoft sucks less. And this is news, or as they say: Progress. Unexpected and amazing at the same time.