Remember when, it was fun to hate Microsoft?

Do you? I do. Despite my constant nitpicking of Apple products, I am, I suppose a Mac fanboy. At least that’s what they call you when you’ve never spent a single tech dollar on a Microsoft flavored piece of PC hardware. Ever. Oh I’ve had the original Xbox, twice – because of peer pressure to play Halo; and I’ve sold my original Xbox, twice because, well because they were ugly and because they were made by …

Still these days, things seem a little bit different. I’m finding it harder and harder to muster that same level of displeasure, that measure of loathing – for the once sworn enemy to the Mac. No doubt external factors have played the part. Google, practically owns the web, Apple owns just about everything else, and the new boys – Facebook, Twitter, foursquare seem to be the latest and greatest (tech and marketing) darlings.

Bill Gates (I know he’s left) and Microsoft? Well while Steve Jobs is busy hunting lost phones and making smaller iThings, Bill is probably the largest philanthropist in the world.  (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Pages/home.aspx) And Microsoft? Well they’re trying.

One of things I’ve always hated about Microsoft, rather unfairly I might add, in the late 90s was how they would always clearly launch an inferior product (i.e. Windows) but constantly pump money into the project (from licenses milked from the rest of the PC world) to eventually overwhelm the consumer market with a mediocre product, fatigued from a barrage of press, media, marketing and service pack updates. They did the same thing with the Xbox (versus the PlayStation) and let’s face it, even with the 360. It’s only within the last few years, that the 360 has really started to shine more with it’s own character and a shine less with it’s legendary red ring of death.

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But something’s happened along the way, and I can’t quite put my finger to it. Somewhere along the way, although Microsoft is still throwing money at projects, although the Mac is still better, although the PlayStation 3 still plays Blu-Ray – something’s changed. Microsoft doesn’t seem to be the big angry spoilt beast that seems to think it deserves every slice of cake in the room anymore. At least not to me.

They seem to be genuinely up for the challenge, and they’re trying – on all fronts. In search, they launched Bing and they’ve teamed up with Yahoo! On gaming, they’ve persevered and have a great product now with a very strong lineup of titles (see Alan Wake for goodness sake) – and soon they’re gonna launch an amazing new piece of technology called Kinect, that will make every living room player look amazingly ridiculous (I wonder who’s having the last laugh). That’s not all. Steve Balmer has admitted that Microsoft missed a cycle in the mobile phone wars (Microsoft admitting a mistake?). Now early reviews (see Engadget) of Windows Mobile 7 seem to suggest that Microsoft are really poised to get back with, at least a very interesting alternative smartphone OS when it launches. A comment I can’t get out of my head is when one Engadget editor actually mentioned that the new OS’ UI is so unique and slick, it actually feels like it was taken off the set of a Sci-Fi movie. Now if  you know anything about Microsoft and it’s UI history – that’s high praise.

Maybe I’m just getting older. But for a guy (here we go again) who’s never bought a PC and has a (rainbow) Apple decal on his car, I’m actually starting to root for Microsoft in some of these areas – at least it keeps things interesting don’t you think. And for that same guy who’s never even put a dollar down on a Windows operating license, I’m actually even monitoring their share price. Maybe it’s time to restart, I mean reboot some of my longterm memory.

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