Company / division: Microsoft
We’ve arrived remarkably quickly at the specialization phase of voice assistant technology – this usually only arrives once the generic version of a technology has gone mainstream. This device looks clever – though the article is frustratingly silent on when or where it might be available – but the broader point is that we’re going to see lots of companies playing in this space, leveraging Microsoft, Amazon and other platforms and technologies combined with their own expertise. Voice is hot, and that means a rapid entry into the market of dozens of new competitors, many of whom won’t survive there long.
This will arguably be the year of piling on in VR, with many companies jumping on a bandwagon led by Sony, HTC, and Oculus. Lenovo, of course, has two possible routes to VR – mobile and PC-based. This article is about a PC solution, but at a price closer to some mobile VR technology than most of the PC stuff out there today. Microsoft does seem to be getting some big names on board, though of course we’re months from seeing how these products actually perform in the wild. See also this piece from The Verge with some more details.
The Verge 2016 tech report card: Microsoft – The Verge (Dec 29, 2016)
This is a good summary of Microsoft’s 2016, which was the year in which a significant turnaround or even a comeback seemed to become plausible. The company made some big advances in key areas, although there was no real advance in first-party tablets or laptops, and it all but killed off its Lumia smartphone business. There’s lots of potential here, but we’ll see in 2017 both whether Microsoft can really turn around its consumer business, and whether it can make its hardware business grow again.
Microsoft might add ‘game mode’ to Windows 10 for maximum gaming performance – The Verge (Dec 28, 2016)
This isn’t coming out of left field – one of the big consumer features of Windows 10 has been its gaming emphasis, so this is a natural evolution. Gaming has been one of the big consumer success points for Microsoft amid broader questions about its strategy and especially monetization among consumers going forward.
Warm Takes on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 – Medium (Dec 27, 2016)
Part of the recent version of the Apple is Doomed narrative has Microsoft in the ascendant, ready to eat its lunch. As with the rest of the narrative, that’s overblown, and this piece does a nice job of highlighting the challenges for Microsoft in winning over Mac users. It’s also a good entry in another couple of narratives – Hardware is Hard, and Microsoft and Hardware, pouring some cold water on the plaudits for Microsoft’s recent hardware efforts.
America’s Big 5 tech companies increase patent filings, Microsoft holds lead in AI technologies – IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law (Dec 22, 2016)
Interesting and valuable analysis. But clearly an oversimplification to make patents held the arbiter of a “lead” in AI. Ultimately, whether you lead in AI comes down to the customer benefit you drive from it, not the patents themselves.