Shifting up a gear

The last few years have seen Microsoft lose some of its glitter. Its Vista operating system didn't exactly impress many users and its internet browser has been criticised for being slow, insecure and inflexible

Tags: Microsoft CorporationUSA
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  February 2, 2009

The last few years have seen Microsoft lose some of its glitter. Its Vista operating system didn’t exactly impress many users and its internet browser has been criticised for being slow, insecure and inflexible. Yet, with the availability of Windows 7 Beta and the introduction of Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 (RC1); it seems the tech giant is intent on strengthening its position as a dominant player.

The operating system and internet browser comprise the looking glass of tech users’ lives and the vast majority of end-users have seen the tech world through Microsoft’s frame of reference. But the company’s grip on end-users has loosened slightly in the last few years.

The Vista operating system (OS) has not been well-received, and its failure, in many ways, provided a leg-up to companies such as Apple and open source projects such as Ubuntu, a Linux OS.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is obviously intent on ‘making a comeback’. Windows 7 has largely been well received, with many commentators suggesting that it will be a greater success than that of its predecessor. Users are also now providing more say with regard to how the operating system works, as they can test out the beta, and report bugs and security holes.

Even Ubuntu’s founder, Mark Shuttleworth, has been quoted on The Register IT website that Windows 7 could be more competitive.

"I've kicked the tires on the [Windows 7] beta for a few hours and it was good," Shuttleworth said.

"They've put concerted attention on the user experience with the shell…I think it's going to be a great product, and every indication is we will see it in the market sooner rather than later," he further said.

Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu operating system has become increasingly pervasive in the netbook market, but with Windows 7 set to be compliant with netbooks as well, it could extend Microsoft’s reach even further.

And then there’s Internet Explorer 8, a browser that could re-affirm its dominance in the browser market. The latest release candidate version of the browser includes new features such as private browsing, enhanced navigation, better tab browsing, web slices, search suggestions and a Smartscreen filter, which helps to protect users against malicious websites.

Internet Explorer (IE) currently makes up 68 % of the browser market; yet, a two-thirds majority is clearly not enough for the company, who has actually lost browser share to other players such as Mozilla Firefox (once upon a time IE used to have a 70% market share).

The release of Windows 7 beta and IE RC1 has occurred at more or less the same time and it bodes for an interesting next two years at Microsoft. All indications are that Microsoft is intent on shifting up a gear.

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