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Meanwhile Microsoft has been hit or miss for a long time. Vista sucked, but Windows 7 is pretty good. They don't do much in the way of hardware, and what they do - e.g. the Zune - is poorly executed. The Xbox 360 is awesome to play, but has had an insane failure rate and it's so loud that it sucks for anything but playing games. The Windows 7 phone has potential, but the company is so far behind Apple and Google that it will have to be incredible to get any attention whatsoever. Microsoft Live is good and getting better, but it's also confusing and not very well marketed.
And for a technology company, Microsoft.com, Zune.com, etc. are terrible websites. How could a company with Microsoft's resources fail design so badly? I recommend checking out both websites and then dropping by Apple.ca to make a side-by-side comparison. It doesn't take long to see which company is focusing on the right details.
And yet for all of their shortcomings I do believe that Microsoft will be back on top sooner or later. The main reason is the Windows 7 platform, which is on its way to dominating the market while encouraging all the third party hardware manufacturers - also embarrassed by Apple on a regular basis - to up their games as well. Windows 7 will be on third party tablets and touchscreens, phones, updated Zune players and every other kind of device you might think of.
Another reason Microsoft will be back is the release of Microsoft Office 2010, which will generate huge sales numbers as businesses, students and others rush out to buy it. The Xbox 360 will also boost the bottom line, especially when the Natal motion control system is released at some point this year - along with (as rumour has it) a smaller, quieter, higher capacity version of the console itself.
I'm not a betting man, which is another reason I hate the stock market. But if I was, I'd put Microsoft back on top by Christmas at the latest.
More on Media PC's
A few weeks ago I wrote a column on media PCs, a.k.a. home theatre PCs and I completely forgot to include one hardware solution that I've been researching - the Dell Inspiron Zino HD (www.dell.ca). If you're looking to hook up a computer to your television for movies, web browsing and other multimedia, then the Zino HD is a powerful and affordable solution.