4 Things New CEO Satya Natella Should Consider to Get Microsoft on the Right Track

Recently, Microsoft announced Satya Natella as the third CEO in the company’s 38-year history, marking a new era for the American software giant. Although Natella inherits a company boasting north of $40 billion in revenue over the last six months of 2013,  Microsoft’s influence in the post-PC world is waning, especially when it comes to tablets and smartphones. So what can Microsoft do to rebound in 2014?

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Microsoft CEO Satya Natella

Four Things Microsoft’s New CEO Needs to Consider

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Stop trying to create an Apple-killer

The single biggest problem hampering Microsoft right now is that it’s no longer an innovative company: it’s a company stuck playing catch up to Apple and Google in just about every category. Sure, Windows-based laptops still sell a ton but when it comes to tablets and smartphones, Microsoft’s Surface tablets and Windows Phone offerings haven’t caught on with consumers, even with the revamped Surface 2 and their line of Windows-branded Nokia smartphones.

There are certainly things Microsoft can take notes from with Apple and Google – one of those things is creating public buzz. Part of the allure of iOS and Android products is the anticipation these companies create with consumers, “leaking” exciting new features and mind-blowing advances in internal technology to get the public drooling. Of course, this is one of Microsoft’s biggest problems: neither its hardware nor software is impressing anyone anymore. Until they can figure out a way to draw consumers to products besides super-snazzy smartphone cameras and cool-looking keyboards, it’s going to be a rough tumble to the bottom.

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Pick a UI – and stick with it

When Microsoft launched Windows 8 and its Metro interface, it was a risky move for the company to try and align its desktop and mobile OS’s into one seamless experience. Except it didn’t work: the new aesthetics led to a major disconnect with its desktop devices and a touch-friendly OS that found itself running on mostly touch-less hardware. Yes, the Metro design has proved beneficial with Windows Phone (one cannot deny the functionality of live tiles) and the Xbox One. But when it came to its core audience, Microsoft was more confusing than revolutionary. It’s a problem they’ve only compounded with multiple desktop interfaces, the return of the Start button, and a number of other features that try and straddle the line between desktop and mobile without providing a coherent direction for the company. Given that, it’s no surprise Microsoft is already working on Windows 9 since Windows 8 was not the step forward they hoped it would be.

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Develop to Microsoft’s strengths, and vigorously 

Looking at Microsoft’s financial results from the end of 2013, two things become clear: Microsoft’s selling less Windows licenses and they’re selling more gaming systems, thanks to the release of the Xbox One in November. It appears Xbox is doing everything it can to promote the Xbox One from announcing exciting features and partnerships to creating television shows and entertainment enhancements. But the 2+ million people who bought the Xbox One are still waiting to see a lot of these new advancements come to light.

Right now, Microsoft’s biggest strengths are Microsoft Office (still a huge entity in the corporate world) and the Xbox. Instead of trying to make an iPad-killer, Microsoft should put an extreme focus on these two products. Continued integration of Office 365 with the cloud is a step in the right direction, as is Microsoft’s entertainment deals with CBS and the NFL for exclusive content on the Xbox One. But both Office 365 and the Xbox One are missing key features for enterprise users and gamers and until Microsoft can advance their new technologies and fulfill the promises they’ve already made (especially with Xbox One features), users are going to be hesitant to embrace the software giant once again.

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To Bing or Not to Bing

What is Microsoft doing with Bing? No, seriously. Although it’s one of the most-used search engines in the world, that title comes with a huge caveat: it lags far, far behind Google in every single category. Over the last couple years, Microsoft’s appeared to embrace Bing, providing revenue opportunities for advertisers, a clean, socially-connected interface for users, and a lot of commercials and Xbox integration to make it seem “cool”. But it hasn’t worked. Unless Microsoft wants Bing to fade out into obscurity (which some argue it already has), they need to find a tangible way to truly establish itself as a valid alternative to Google, not just another Microsoft product viewed as a knockoff of a more popular service.

Nokia Lumia 2520 vs. Microsoft Surface 2: What the Experts Think

Last week we spent a lot of time talking about Apple and haven’t taken the time to explore tablet reviews for the Nokia Lumia 2520 and Windows Surface 2. Both of these tablets were also premiered last week on Tuesday, October 22. While Apple clearly won the majority of hype from tech bloggers, the Lumia 2520 and Surface 2 are both worthy of a tablet review.

With no Lumia 2520 or Surface 2 readily available for my eager paws to play with, it’s time to turn to the experts. And anyway, the internet is rife with tablet reviews for both the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2. Let’s check out the key points from a few expert tablet reviews instead!

Without further ado, here are what the experts are saying about the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2.

Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Review

Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Review

Nokia released their first tablet last week: the Nokia Lumia 2520 which will be released later this year for $499. While the tablet didn’t garner Apple iPad Air levels of excitement, the experts seem to agree that there’s a lot to like about the Lumia 2520.

“Overall it looks and feels incredibly solid, if not a bit predictable: its unibody polycarbonate design and sleek curves scream to the world that it’s very much a Lumia device, regardless of its screen size. There are four colors available: red or white with a glossy finish, and black or cyan with a matt finish.” – Brad Molen of Engadget

“It really takes Nokia’s design language and places it almost perfectly into a tablet form factor. The 1920 x 1080 display is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen on a tablet. Viewing angles are great and the brightness is equally impressive. Color reproduction is incredibly accurate, and it’s clear Nokia has really aimed high with the display on its first tablet.” – Tom Warren of The Verge

The display is clearly one of the top assets of the Nokia Lumia 2520. Most expert hands-on tablet reviews make mention of the brightness and rich colors.

“Nokia is particularly proud of the Lumia 2520′s display, and with good reason. It’s not just resolution – though being Full HD doesn’t hurt – but brightness and viewing angles, with the slate cranking up to 650 Nits at most. You won’t need that sort of brightness indoors, but the promise is far improved outdoor visibility. Either way, colors are bright and vivid, and the backlighting is even.” – Chris Davies of SlashGear

Like the Windows Surface, the Nokia Lumia 2520 can be used with a keyboard case. According to most experts, the keyboard case is an awesome feature.

“Not only does this case unfold into a keyboard, but it has two USB ports on the back, and it folds up into a tablet protector. It’s the best tablet keyboard case I’ve seen yet.” – Sascha Segan of PC Magazine

Nokia Lumia 2520 Keyboard

Where Nokia falls desperately short is with their offering of apps, a complaint echoed by most of the Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet reviews I read. To be fair though, this is more the fault of the Windows operating system as opposed to Nokia’s Lumia 2520 hardware.

“But no shiny shell can solve Windows RT’s central problem, which is that it’s completely confusing for consumers. Go to a GameStop and try to buy a “Windows” game – it won’t run on this “Windows” tablet. See a link online to download a “Windows” app; that won’t run either. While you can indeed find apps by going into the app store on the device, the entire external universe of marketing, advertising, and word-of-mouth chatter about Windows drives people to x86 apps that won’t run on an RT tablet.” – Sascha Segan

Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet Review

Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet Review

Microsoft looked to do with their second tablet what they couldn’t with their first: impress people. Did the Microsoft Surface 2 receive more positive tablet reviews this time around? Let’s see what the experts had to say!

“Getting our hands on the Surface 2, the tablet instantly feels sturdier than the last iteration. It might be partially because the tablet is now made of just two magnesium pieces (the shell itself and the kickstand), but it simply feels like a thin, solid slate of silvered metal topped with glass, giving it a very industrial look.” – Kevin Lee of TechRadar

“At first glance, some of the pain points have indeed been addressed: the ClearType display, for instance, now runs at 1920 x 1080, rather than the 1366 x 768 of the initial model, making for crisper text and more detailed images. There’s certainly less of the fuzziness around text that we noticed on the first-gen version.” – Vincent Nguyen of SlashGear

Two of the most praised features in the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet reviews were the tablet’s keyboard options and the kickstand, which was upgrading with an extra viewing angle.

“Oddly the most impressive pieces of tech to come out of the new Surface line were actually the new Touch and Type Covers. The new, thinner Type Cover offers slightly quieter word processing for the tack-tack self-conscious library goers. But the real show stopper was the new Touch Cover. The cover lets you do even more with an array of 1,092 touch sensors, whereas the old Touch Cover only packed 80.” – Kevin Lee

“Personally, I prefer the physical keys of the Type Cover 2 over the printed keys of the Touch Cover 2, but Microsoft has done some neat engineering tricks on the super-thin keyboard so that it’s faster and far more accurate. My tests bore this out. The Surface body is also unusual in the tablet space because it features a built-in kickstand. Surface 2 gets a second kick setting, something I appreciated as I worked with the it on my lap in a variety of settings: sometimes the more upright setting worked better and for others, the more laid-back one was just right. The second lower setting is also a lot more useful for counter viewing — if you’re standing up.” – Lance Ulanoff of Mashable

In Conclusion

While it’s impossible to draw a solid conclusion about either device without actually playing around with them, the experts paint a good picture of what to expect. Microsoft did a good job upgrading things like the Surface’s display, kickstand and keyboard. According to the experts though, the Microsoft Surface 2 falls short in most other aspects and little has changed from the first Microsoft Surface. Nokia, however, put forth a strong effort for their first tablet. The Nokia Lumia 2520 display, rich colors, keyboard and durable design show that Nokia is headed in the right direction.

Where Nokia, Microsoft and Windows all need to improve is in their offering of apps and the consistency of the operating system across devices. Many experts complained about finding updates and/or apps that weren’t operational on their particular device. This is a problem specific to Windows and one that will need to be figured out soon. If not, the Windows operating system will have a very hard time gaining more ground against Apple’s always consistent operating system.

Have you had hands-on time with either tablet? Which features were you most impressed/unimpressed by? Give us your tablet review in the comments below!