While Microsoft’s immediate future as a tech giant was never going to be under threat, the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to rethink both its short and long term strategy.
The same can be said of almost all major companies, although there are plenty of other changes at Microsoft that have been in the pipeline for months or even years.
With that in mind, here are four ways the company is evolving to meet the needs of the current situation and beyond.
No in-person events
Back in April, Microsoft committed to holding all its events virtually until at least July 2021.
At the time of the announcement, the coronavirus pandemic was hitting its peak, with many countries reporting record highs in both cases and deaths.
While it’s hoped that widespread international travel and large gatherings will be permitted before next summer, Microsoft made it clear early on that it wasn’t going to take any chances with regards to public safety.
The success of May’s Build developer conference proved that the company can provide rich online experiences, and that event being opening to the general public for the first time will have undoubtedly increased its popularity.
No more retail stores
On 26 June 2020, Microsoft announced that it would close all its retail stores.
The news undoubtedly has a bigger effect on the US, with 104 shops set to close.
The London store is one of Microsoft’s four ‘Experience Centers’ which will remain open, although you’ll no longer be able to buy products from these locations.
The Microsoft Store in Oxford Circus opened its doors for the first time in 2019. Image: Microsoft
It comes as Microsoft continues its shift to delivering services online, with Surface products still available in-store from selected third-party retailers.
However, Microsoft Stores’ uncanny resemblance to Apple’s equivalents led some to believe it simply couldn’t compete with its fellow tech giant in the physical space.
Read: Where to try Surface products
A new era for Surface
The aforementioned Surface devices are among the most popular Windows devices on the market.
Microsoft’s own line of computers has grown rapidly since beginning life with a single tablet in 2012, with the company now manufacturing seven distinct types of PC.
However, that looks set to take a different direction with the release of the Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Announced back in October 2019 but not officially arriving until the end of the year, they represent Microsoft’s first foray into the world of foldable devices.
With one device running Android and the other Windows 10X, the company looks to be taking the foldable market in a different direction.
The company has also patented a new modular foldable, although it’s unclear whether this could be a successor to the Duo/Neo or a new device altogether.
Windows 10 reinforcements
Windows 10 the most popular desktop operating system by far, accounting for 54.76% of the entire market as of June 2020. Second was Windows 7 with 27.41%, illustrating Microsoft’s dominance.
However, Windows has been plagued with issues in recent months, leaving many in its huge user base extremely frustrated.
Many were associated with the May 2020 update, although there were a steady stream of bugs for months before that.
Some, including The Verge’s Sean Hollister, were also angry at Microsoft’s insistence to push the latest version of its Edge web browser. The software was installed on many devices without users’ permission, while a full screen window initially opened that couldn’t be dismissed.
Microsoft will have to invest significant resources in order to ensure future versions of Windows 10 are much more stable, while maintaining the freedom of choice that it’s renowned for.
The company seems willing to adapt to the current challenging situation whilst still planning its long-term future, but it will have to remain committed to the kind of change we’ve seen in recent months.