Has Microsoft redeemed itself?

Windows 7, the 2010 server series, and more have helped repair Microsoft’s reputation

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Even Office -- whose new Scenic Ribbon UI rang alarm bells among many longtime users -- has shrugged off the criticism and gained popularity. Most users don't seem to be bothered by the ribbon, and those who object to it either stayed with the previous version or figured out the secret to turning back on the missing menus in Office 2007.

And the new Office 2010 beta has gained strong praise from InfoWorld's Fatal Exception blogger Neil McAllister, a stickler for quality who finds that Microsoft's perennial claims that each new version was based on user feedback and testing were actually true in the case of Office 2010.

Still, all the positive feelings about the 2010 series are tempered with the many holes and flaws typical of beta software -- and a realization that Microsoft could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory if it doesn't address all the issues that beta testers forgive in the early stages.

Developers largely happy as well
On the developer front, the forthcoming Visual Studio 2010 looks very compelling, according to Martin Heller, InfoWorld's Strategic Developer blogger. But as a beta, it has some major issues that need to be fixed for that promise to become reality, he notes.

Users now say that Silverlight 4 is becoming a mature platform for Microsoft's rich Internet application competitor to Adobe Flash. "It's really powerful," says Tatiana Rizzante, senior partner at integrator Reply in Italy. Still, although she says Silverlight offers better image treatment and navigation, Rizzante notes that Reply continues to use the better-established Flash technology.

Among Silverlight's majopr improvements are Webcam and microphone support, notes Matthew Ray, technical director at ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. He believes Silverlight has progressed a long way in 22 months and that version 4 should give Flash a run for its money.

Sean Gordon, an architect in the strategy architecture emerging technology team at Chevron, is happy about Microsoft's Dublin technology. Dublin previously was positioned as application server extensions to Windows, providing a host for applications that use workflow or communications. Now, Dublin and Microsoft's Velocity project for distributed in-memory caching are being linked in Microsoft's Windows Server AppFabric technology, for deploying and managing applications spanning the server and cloud. "[AppFabric] sounds like a great solution for caching," says David Collins, a system consultant at the Unum life insurance company. "It provides [sort of] a caching layer between our services and data tier, which is something we could definitely use."

And Windows Azure, Microsoft's coming cloud development and hosting platform, has also began to get positive interest from developers.

Not everything is rosy
There's no question that Microsoft bounced back in 2009, digging itself out of its deep Vista hole and rallying the IT community around its 2010 product plans.

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