In anticipation of today's Windows 9 (or, whatever it will be called) information launch, several things have transpired in preparation.
First, Microsoft rolled out a revamped and renewed TechNet Evaluation Center for IT Pros. The new Eval Center is part of the message wants to promote today, showing that IT Pros are still very much their concern. Microsoft spent much of 2013 eliminating programs and events designed for IT Pros. But, really, Can Microsoft Win Back IT Pros?
Overnight, a couple more things happened.
First, even though the URL still contains "preview" as part of its name, Microsoft is announcing that the new/old MSN site has launched. The MSN site has been around since Windows 95 released – in 1995. But, the site has been forgotten. Microsoft is renewing its efforts to pump-up MSN (stands for Microsoft Network) as a goto location for news and services. If you go to the site today you can quickly gain access to things like Outlook.com, Office Online, OneNote, OneDrive, and other Microsoft services. In addition, you can link several of your social media accounts to provide quick access to those, too.
Incidentally, when the preview of the MSN site was announced I decided to use it as my browser home page to test. I found that the simple Bing news bar provided better, more interesting news than the new MSN. So, it's neat, but not revolutionary and life altering.
The second thing that happened, and as an extension to MSN, Microsoft has also rolled out recoded versions of its Windows and Windows Phone apps. Each app, has been rebranded. Once Bing apps, they are now all MSN apps, designed to integrate with the MSN site.
In addition, to the app revamps, Microsoft is bringing unification across devices by way of Azure. Right now, that experience is only available for Microsoft operating systems, but the companies has big plans to deliver the same functionality to iOS and Android.
- Rebranded to MSN: Weather, News, Sports, Finance, Travel, Health & Fitness, and Food & Drink.
- Bing Finance has now been rebranded as MSN Money.
To avoid confusion, Microsoft has also clearly stated that Bing is not going away. Bing is Microsoft's search engine and Cortana powering mechanism, while MSN is a services vehicle.
After loading them up last night and sifting through the changes, I noticed a couple things. First off, though "Finance" has been renamed to "Money," it still shows up as categorized under "F" in the Windows 8.1 app list. Then, I noticed that the Health & Fitness app no longer synchs with Microsoft Health Vault. That was a convenient way of tying your fitness together with your health records. I'm not sure the reason behind this de-integration, but hopefully we'll hear clarification soon. Instead, Health & Fitness now syncs across devices using Azure. Another change in the Health & Fitness app is that it no longer allows you to keep track of weight exercises. I didn't use this anyway, but only over the last couple weeks thought about switching to it to try it out. Microsoft inadvertently made my decision for me.
So, today, as Windows 9 information is announced, I'm sure we'll hear more about these overnight preparations. Possibly not, though, considering Microsoft is rumored to put focus on IT Pros today and these are considerably consumer centered changes. I'll be interested to hear if Microsoft is once again muddying the IT Pro waters with clear consumer content.