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Microsoft is the company to watch in 2016

Bill Snyder | Jan. 7, 2016
From innovative hardware to augmented reality and open source, the new Microsoft is bolder and stronger than it has been for years

Microsoft won't bank tons of money selling such an expensive machine, but clearly the company aims to push the PC makers into making better products, an essential step in keeping the Windows franchise afloat. It also wants to push the PC makers into dialing way back on bloatware, which is why the Microsoft Store sells bloatware-free Signature Editions of PCs made by other companies.

From open source to augmented reality

You don't have to go back many years to find evidence ofMicrosoft's arrogant rejection of the open source community. That's been changing for some time, and as the company struggles to keep developers on its side, open source has become even more important.

There was a key development on that front last month when Microsoft announced plans to open-source its Chakra JavaScript engine. It shows, as my colleague Serdar Yegulalp wrote, "that Microsoft wants to become a player in the JavaScript ecosystem that has ambitions to be a near-universal runtime for every kind of software."

There isn't a huge amount of money here, but the Chakra strategy is indicative of a new openness and willingness to work in environments where Microsoft is not in a position to dominate the playing field.

Then there's HoloLens. Sure, it's been delayed a few times, but I'm excited to see Microsoft garner buzz -- it practically eclipsed Windows at Microsoft's January 2015 public preview. More important, it shows a willingness to go beyond the corporate comfort zone.

Writing at Ars Technica, Peter Bright put it this way: "With HoloLens I saw virtual objects -- Minecraft castles, Skype windows, even the surface of Mars -- presented over, and spatially integrated with, the real world."

Augmented reality has the potential to be more than a cool toy. Companies like Epson have already developed and sold units that help field technicians fix complex devices and warehouse workers pick products from shelves. This field is crowded, and it will take some doing for Microsoft to succeed, but its willingness to risk it speaks volumes.

I don't mean to minimize Microsoft's weakness or defend boorish behavior like its annoying campaign to push users to download Windows 10. But having watched Microsoft decline as a relevant tech power over the years, I see a lot of reasons to expect a continued resurgence. Watch it carefully in 2016.



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