Microsoft is a very large company, and it’s easy to forget exactly what it does, outside of Windows. A lot pundits love to base an outlook of Microsoft’s continued existence on the rise and fall of Windows as a primary operating system, but there is a lot more to the company in Redmond than you might think.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the things Microsoft does that the general public isn’t always aware of.
Microsoft is presently a leading developer of robotics software in the global market. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio is an incredibly robust platform that utilizes technology such as that found in the Kinect to make robots more aware of their surroundings.
We saw a demonstration of a robot created on Microsoft technology at Gnomedex in 2011.
If you’re just getting into the field of robotics, there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself using some software (or hardware) developed by Microsoft.
Skype is something that a lot of people know about, but few outside of the world of geekery realize that Microsoft owns it. It was bought last year from PayPal/eBay and has been a big part of the Microsoft ecosystem ever since.
VoIP is a big deal to Microsoft, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing some interesting implementations of it in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 heading into 2013. The current version leaves a bit more to be desired, but we can hope.
Either way, free phone calls are something worth celebrating. Skype enabled me to go phone-free for several months and would probably be my go-to service if the situation ever presents itself again should I decide to cut myself free from traditional phone service.
Microsoft as a company is a huge investor in other companies that go on to accomplish incredible things. Facebook is one such investment made in 2007 to the tune of 260 million dollars. It’s this investment that made Facebook’s implementation of Skype possible, and makes Microsoft a big part of the Facebook family.
In 1997, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, Microsoft made a significant investment in Apple, which arguably saved the company from certain death. This investment enabled Microsoft to enjoy a five-year patent agreement that ended a very bitter feud between the two. Microsoft Office was also introduced to the Mac shortly after, as well as Internet Explorer (short-lived).
Think Facebook is the only social network that Microsoft has had a hand in? Think again. Microsoft bought Yammer this past June and has been quietly merging it with its Microsoft Office team. Yammer (bought for $1.2 billion) is an enterprise social network that promised to create a social environment that limits itself to a single company.
With the intention of enabling coworkers to share ideas and receive updates in a familiar social platform, Yammer made waves four years ago when it was first introduced. Since then, the idea had kind of fallen out of mind with many consumers out there, but this is hardly a consumer product.
With promise of implementation into the Microsoft Office line of products — which itself is depending more on the cloud than ever before — it would be hard to count this acquisition out just yet. Microsoft has something up its sleeve, and enterprise has always been its big customer base.
Technical Recognition Awards
Just about every big company out there has some award program where they recognize leaders in a given field. Microsoft is no different, though the prize is certainly pretty noble. Winners of this award can pick a charity to which Microsoft will make a sizable donation in their name. It’s a way of not only giving recognition to innovators, but to contribute to a number of causes out there that these innovators hold dear.
Microsoft is a much larger company than a lot of people give it credit for. It has a hand in a number of businesses, and is arguably a leader in several fields that its strongest perceived competition haven’t even approached. As a company, Microsoft’s platforms have and continue to be popular choices for developers and entrepreneurs. It’s held some of the largest app development events in the world (India AppFest 2012 being the largest in history).
Bing is a feasible alternative to Google for search — and its maps application is actually quite good. The Xbox and Kinect made Microsoft a force to be reckoned with in the console gaming world, and the Zune (despite being seen as a failure) contributed largely to bigger projects by Microsoft, including the Windows 8 family. Hardware is also a big part of Microsoft. Keyboards, mice, and even webcams made by the software giant are also quite notable for their value and widespread adoption by consumers and enterprise customers alike.
What are your favorite non-Windows Microsoft products or projects?