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Who would have believed it? Microsoft, the old gray mare of the computing world, has become cool again. After years of derision from the Apple crowd, Microsoft has re-established itself as a consumer technology powerhouse with products that people actually want to buy and use.

The list of Microsoft’s product flops is lengthy. Microsoft Vista, which many users felt had more in common with a virus than an operating system, sent hoards of users running to the Mac platform. And it wasn’t the only bad operating system Microsoft produced. Who can forget Microsoft Me and Microsoft Bob? Everyone? Yeah, I thought so, and for good reason.

Let’s face it. In this century, the only hits that Microsoft has had have been the XP operating system and the Xbox gaming platform. It was looking like Microsoft’s future would only be servers and gaming.

But Microsoft has the invaluable ability to learn from its (many) mistakes. And while theirconsumer products still don’t command the type of market share that Apple has, Microsoft has laid the groundwork for a much brighter future.

It’s generally accepted that Microsoft’s Zune was the Edsel of portable media players. It got it’s hat handed to it by the Apple iPod. But the technology developed for the Zune is re-emerging in new Microsoft products such as the Windows Phone, the Surface tablet, and the Windows 8 operating system. All of these products are putting Microsoft back on the map of consumer technology leaders.

New life is being breathed into old mainstays such as the Office suite, as well. Office 2013 includes dozens of improvements to the usability and user interface of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. And then there’s Office 365, a cloud-based service that makes all of your Office apps and documents available anywhere, via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is a big step toward transforming tablets and phones from devices that simply pumped out entertainment to tools that can be used to get real work done. Productivity — what a concept!

I hope I don’t sound like a Microsoft fanboy. That’s not my intention. It’s just that I get some satisfaction out of seeing a once great company show some chops once again. Microsoft is a great American company that employs thousands of people. We can use all of those that we can get right now.

Click here to learn more about Microsoft’s *cool* new product line.

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