Microsoft: Full Steam Ahead?

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Microsoft Windows 8 2
Will we see a boot to desktop and start button on Windows Blue?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has put a lot of its energy behind its flagship product, Windows.

On Saturday, the company’s second tablet offering will be available in stores, running the most recent version of the operating system with the help of Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) i5 chip and 4 gigabytes of RAM.

As the demand for personal computers continues to drop worldwide, Microsoft has made a foray into the hardware business with its Surface Tablet and launched a major redesign of its Windows operating system. The Surface Pro will be released on Saturday, February 9, and analysts are waiting to see whether the device can drum up more sales than its predecessor, the Surface RT, and change Microsoft’s fortunes.

With the Pro’s ability to run the full version of Windows 8, it has a chance of out-competing Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad for business customers, an important step for Microsoft, which has been working to develop its niche in that market.

The Surface RT’s sales and reviews were mostly lukewarm, but the Pro has fared slightly better in the review department so far. Engadget called the tablet a “compelling proposition” because it combines the operating power of a laptop with the portability of a tablet. But the publication’s bottom line analysis stated that “Microsoft’s Surface with Windows 8 Pro is the best tablet running Windows 8 we’ve yet seen, but still feels like a compromise when used as a tablet or laptop.” This was a sentiment espoused by most of the device’s other reviewers.

While hardware is a new avenue for Microsoft, and one necessary to the company’s future profitability, it has not forgotten its software roots. Sources told ZDNet that the Windows client team at Microsoft is working on the first “feature-pack” update for Windows 8. The update for Windows is due out this summer or fall, is codenamed “Blue,” and will include improvements for Windows Phone, Windows services like SkyDrive and Hotmail, and Windows Server.

Microsoft announced a major milestone for its cloud storage service on Friday as well. Its SkyDrive now stores over 1 billion Office documents, and to further that growth, the company has added a feature to make sharing and editing documents easier. The main complaint Microsoft has received regarding the service has now been fixed, and recipients of the company’s documents do not need to sign in or sign up for an account to make quick changes.

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