What year did Microsoft live in 2022? The company has made several big moves this year, including a mammoth acquisition worth nearly $70 billion – mired in controversy – as well as rolling out the first major feature update to Windows 11. Let’s take a look at how Microsoft fared across software, hardware and games in the last year.
Major Windows 11 Update (and Bug Updates)
Windows 11 is still relatively new, arriving in late 2021, and the biggest thing to happen to the operating system this year was the debut of its first major update. (Note that there will now only be one feature update per year, not twice a year as was the case in the past.) The Windows 11 2022 update (informally known as 22H2) arrived in September, bringing many fixes as well as some important and useful changes to the interface. We were also treated to the new “Moments” system, Microsoft’s fancy jargon for smaller updates that are more agilely applied when needed outside of a major annual feature update.
Some of the notable improvements that were made included the introduction of File Explorer tabs, allowing multiple folders to be opened in a single File Explorer window, the same way a browser has multiple tabs. This marked the delivery of a long-promised feature from Microsoft. Much attention has also been given to the taskbar with the introduction of the taskbar overflow panel, and after many requests from many Windows 11 users, the drag and drop feature has finally been brought back to the taskbar.
Indeed, it seems like something of a theme of the year that Microsoft has been listening more to user feedback and needs, and another aspect of the taskbar – removing the option to ungroup apps in the taskbar, a feature that is in Windows 10 – seems to be will be repaired. Or at least this feature was present in testing with Windows 11 and should be available soon for those who don’t want multiple instances of the same app on the taskbar.
The feeling that Windows 11 was a work in progress still lingered, and Microsoft had to do quite a bit of tweaking and redoing to improve various interface elements (and clean up the cluttered, legacy corners of the UI) – plus frustrating bugs were still a problem.
Throughout 2022, while there were no issues with Windows 11 bugs (as Windows 10 has in the past), we reported far too many bugs, and some nasty enough. For example, printers that had many features removed, as well as gremlins that degraded performance levels in various ways, and players were also attacked by some seriously annoying bugs. Errors in File Explorer also seemed particularly common, which is a problem considering it’s a fundamental pillar of the UI (the very files and folders you work with on a daily basis).
Perhaps the real test we can use to measure the success of Windows 11 in 2022 is to see how many people have switched to the operating system (or, of course, bought a new PC with it pre-installed). According to Statcounter data (as of November 2022, the latest available at the time of writing), 16% of all Windows users are using Windows 11. This is not very good for an operating system that has been out of operation for more than a year, especially considering considering Windows 7 has almost 10% market share. In other words, a completely outdated operating system is not far behind.
Moreover, after a year of its reign as Microsoft’s cutting-edge operating system, Windows 10 has secured almost 30% uptake, almost twice as much as Windows 11. Having said that, Windows 11 is somewhat hampered as some people cannot upgrade because their PC it doesn’t meet the more stringent requirements (especially on security), so Microsoft expects the migration to be slower when they bake these elements into the OS design.
Overall, Windows 11 has certainly made reasonable strides in making important changes to the interface, but we’d like to see even more progress and especially a better effort at bug-fighting, which we feel is long overdue for a review of Microsoft’s quality control processes.
Such a surface
As every year, another batch of refreshed Surface devices has appeared.
Back in June, we first saw the Surface Laptop Go 2, which wasn’t much different from the original laptop, but did make some useful improvements and remains an excellent choice for a compact notebook.
Then in October, at a major Microsoft event, we witnessed the unveiling of the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Laptop 5 along with the Surface Studio 2+.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best collection of Surface hardware for Microsoft. To begin with, the Surface Laptop 5 did not impress us, turning out spectacularly halfway. Not terrible, but hampered by performance issues and definitely not worth the hefty asking price strapped to the laptop.
Certainly the Surface Pro 9 turned out to be a better device, taking some commendable steps up from the Pro 8. It also made an interesting move by having two flavors: a 5G model with a Qualcomm SQ3 (ARM) processor and an Intel-based version, the former being great an option for some (businessmen on the move, for example), although ARM-related gremlins are in development. The Pro 9 remained expensive, but overall it was an undeniably sleek device and a good upgrade over its predecessor in terms of performance.
The Surface Studio 2+ only got a minor update as marked 2+ (instead of 3), but Microsoft made some solid changes, though nothing particularly exciting. Which generally sums up what happened on the Surface front: nothing bad by any means – certainly not with the Surface Pro 9 – but nothing great either.
In January, Microsoft pounced on gaming giant Activision Blizzard in a massive acquisition for nearly $70 billion. Yes, it’s Activision – the one that has brands like Call of Duty, Diablo, Overwatch, World of Warcraft and many other famous games in its stable.
The scale of this deal is invaluable, meaning that in the future, Xbox Game Pass holders will be able to get the next blockbuster Call of Duty for free with this subscription (while PlayStation fans will need to cash in and we’re all very familiar with the staggering cost of gaming these days).
Indeed, the waves from this deal are still going on as at the time of writing, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit to block Microsoft’s acquisition on the grounds that it could stifle Xbox rivals.
Of course, Microsoft has given us a whole bunch of assurances that after the acquisition, Activision will not throw itself into the fight in an anti-competitive manner, but there are many doubters, and the FTC points to the past of Microsoft and ZeniMax (the Bethesda acquisition. Whereas in this case, promises were also made that won’t hold games from competing consoles, the FTC notes that after the acquisition, titles like Starfield, Redfall, and Elder Scrolls 6 became Xbox exclusives.
Microsoft’s buyout of Activision could therefore potentially trim the last hurdles.
Nausea commercials – but with a glimmer of something positive?
You can expect ads in your web browser, but not in your operating system. Because, you know, you paid good money for that OS, in the case of Windows anyway (or good money for the machine it came on, and that was part of the bill).
But real estate ads in Windows menus or panels became a concern again in 2022 as Microsoft tested – and note these were just experiments that didn’t appear in the Windows 11 version – OneDrive ads in the menu user session (disabling ). Moreover, the company briefly flirted with ads in File Explorer, a central pillar of the Windows interface. Let the waters be equal tested is a problem, really.
All of this might make you think that ads will be a thorn in the side of Windows 11 users in the future – especially given Microsoft’s past form, this is obviously not a new thing – but instead, another possibility popped up towards the end of the year.
Namely, the notion that Microsoft may be leaning towards cheap PCs that are sold by subscription, rely on cloud services and are ad-supported (to make them cheaper – so there would be an advantage in this case). It was just a rumor, gleaned (in November) via Microsoft’s job posting, but earlier in July this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about incorporating ads into its products.
We’ve clearly heard complaints about this prospect, but as we’ve seen, during the cost of living crisis, when not everyone can afford a new PC, it can be a good idea to make Windows PCs more affordable for those struggling with money.
Head in the clouds
Speaking of cloud services related to cheap ad-supported PCs, this is an area where Microsoft has been going from strength to strength in 2022. Cloud revenues have been strong since the beginning of the year, and then in October, Microsoft’s fiscal results for Q1 2023 showed that while the Windows division collapsed – and actually fell 15%, partly due to a slump in PC sales this year – cloud revenue grew 24% compared to the same quarter in 2021
Microsoft made $25.7 billion in just one quarter – more than half of its total revenue for that period – in case you had any doubts about where the future lies for the software giant’s coffers.
Along with the PC crisis, it wasn’t the best year for Microsoft – but cloud revenue was a clear high point, and given these various ad experiments in Windows 11, the company may have plans for the future to boost profits in other ways, with cheap advertising systems.
2022 has been a pretty typical year for Surface hardware, albeit with some solid updates for some devices. And Windows 11 was a similar case where some reasonable progress was made, albeit with touchy sides in the form of bugs. The highlight of Windows 11, however, was that Microsoft listened more to user feedback, although perhaps some introductions made based on popular demand should have been resolved sooner.
This mammoth acquisition by Activision Blizzard remains something to watch as it will have potentially huge ramifications for the gaming industry next year if it goes through; but there seems to still be a distinct possibility of it going off the rails.