With the Windows 8 beta out next week and getting all the attention especially with it’s integration of the company’s Kinect technology, the rest of Microsoft’s product line-up has taken a back seat in the eyes of the public and businesses. It is a very extensive line-up though including Hotmail, SkyDrive, Office Web Apps, Office 365, Office 2010, Windows Server, Windows Phone, ForeFront, Lync, Xbox 360 and many more. One of the core benefits of using Microsoft’s products is the way that they integrate with one another, or do they? The integration between Windows and Windows Server is obvious and long-standing, again it’s obvious to see the links between Microsoft Office and Office 365, but what about the rest of the product line-up?
If we look more at the consumer products, Live Mesh and SkyDrive integrate a little bit, but not enough for most people’s tastes, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are rumoured to integrate much more and the poor Xbox 360 is pretty much left out on its own. But why is this and why is it something I believe needs to change?
The reason for the continued separation in Microsoft’s products is because of the way the company is structured. Each department is effectively set against it’s ‘rivals’ in terms of meeting targets and winning plaudits from the bosses higher up in the company. This tribal approach can, on occasion, make it difficult to get different departments working together because they are competing day to day. Some of the reason too sits with purely technical challenges, such as the ‘current’ status of the Windows Phone kernel being a unique product outside of Windows 7, 8′s and Windows Server’s MinWin, and some are business decisions. A good example of this is the decision to limit Windows Live Mesh to 5Gb of synced storage because if the company opened up all of SkyDrive then people would fill it up, never use it again and Microsoft would be obligated to maintain that data in perpetuity.
So how would you better integrate Microsoft’s products and why? There can be little doubt that the integration we currently have can really help in day to day life. For example I store some critical Word and Excel documents in SkyDrive. I can open these on any PC in Office 2010 from a Windows 7 Jumplist as though they were stored on that computer, and I can also open them on my Windows Phone. On each device I know that I’m always getting the most up to date version of the file, which makes life much simpler. On the flip-side my Hotmail is now pretty full of more than ten years worth of emails and, crucially, attachments. There’s no way to strip these attachments out other than to completely delete the emails, and many of these attachments are either duplicates or in the case of sent email, no longer required most of the time. SkyDrive would seem like the perfect place for them to be stripped out to and stored, but there’s no way to do this (currently).
So how would you further and better integrate Microsoft’s product line-up? Would you create closer ties between Windows and the Xbox, so that you can push and pull video and music directly to the console as easily as you can drag and drop files on your own desktop, or would you want better wireless integration between your Windows Phone and the Microsoft designed Ford Sync in your car? Do you even like the thought of further integrating products or does it leave a Google Privacy-esque bad taste in your mouth? Why not tell us in the comments.