Microsoft was the butt of jokes in 2008, lampooned for its inept Windows Vista and its refusal to admit anything was wrong, criticized for ongoing security lapses, and targeted for much carping from both Office 2007 users who didn't like the new Microsoft ribbon UI and Mac Office users frustrated by a buggy, even-less-capable version of what their Windows users got.
But 2009 marked a change in the company's fortunes -- and its reputation.
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To combat the Vista woes, Microsoft stopped defending the OS and began aggressively marketing Windows 7, its replacement, with a broad public beta cycle that saw hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of users try it more than a half-year before its formal release on Oct. 22.
And they generally liked it. InfoWorld's Enterprise Desktop blogger, Randall C. Kennedy -- a Windows devotee who's grown frustrated by Microsoft's decisions for several years and became the poster child for many Windows bashers -- has repeatedly praised the new Windows. In an InfoWorld Test Center review, Curtis Franklin Jr. judged that Windows 7 was almost as good as Mac OS X Snow Leopard -- and he meant it as strong praise, not faint damnation. Kennedy's Windows Pulse service shows that users are happy with Windows 7, adopting it strongly -- even XP users.
IT-oriented betas show lots of promise
Within IT, Microsoft's reputation was not so hard hit; most businesses simply ignored Vista while coaxing more life out of their Windows XP systems as one response to the 2008-09 recession. Also, many in IT were excited about the new set of Windows server products that began rolling out in developer betas. Windows Server 2008 R2 got good marks from the InfoWorld Test Center, thanks to significant improvements to Hyper-V R2, Server Core, PowerShell scripting, and Terminal Services. It also sports nice "joined at the hip" features with Windows 7, such as BranchCache and AppLocker.
Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010 have also received high praise for their beta versions. InfoWorld's Enterprise Windows blogger, J. Peter Bruzzese, has loudly sung the praises and share the joy on these new servers, but he's by no means an exceptional fan. Office Web Apps also looks promising.