Today's Microsoft is a new company. While it's true that many of the changes announced under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella were initiated under his predecessor, Steve Ballmer, it's still clear that this isn't the same old company: It's barbecuing sacred cows and embracing smart new directions.
Here are four surprising things Microsoft has embraced publicly in the past week or so that reveal a new and better company.
1. The iPad
Not offering a version of Office for the iPad years ago was a colossal missed opportunity for Microsoft. Back then, the world was far more addicted to and dependent upon Word and the other Office apps. Had the company simply shipped an iPad version, users of Apple's tablet would have jumped on it and Microsoft would have dominated the application scene on iPads the way it did on early Macintoshes.
But Microsoft held back because it was concerned that the iPad might gain widespread acceptance. Well, that train left the station anyway and Microsoft wasn't on board. Users were forced to find alternative office productivity tools, like Apple's Pages and Google Docs, which gained the ability to produce Office-compatible documents sometime after I wrote that column.
But you know what? Better late than never.
Best of all, Microsoft's new iPad version of Office, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is not some grudging, ill-conceived, half-hearted, go-through-the-motions effort. It's a knowingly designed, super-native iPad app.
Microsoft long resisted moving its cash cow to the iPad platform. But when it finally did, it went all the way.
Most of all, the nature of this release shows that it's a new Microsoft, and a better one.
2. Makers (Windows for Internet of Things)
The Internet of Things, of course, is essentially a traditional Microsoft stronghold — embedded systems — plus connectivity.
What impresses about Microsoft's initiative here is that it's not yet another offering for giant corporations, big factories or manufacturers. It's for tinkerers, hobbyists and educators.
The new "Things" version of Windows is designed to run on the Galileo hacker board, powered by Intel's Quark chip. It's even compatible with Arduino's open-source, Linux-supporting microcontroller boards.
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