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1Windows Phone 7 Can Work

Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, has been struggling to catch on. But Microsoft believes in the platform and thinks that it has a bright future. However, in the next year, the software giant must prove that, and ensure that it can do a better job of taking on Android and iOS.

2Nokia Can Stay Relevant

Microsoft’s deal with Nokia makes Windows Phone 7 become the “principal” operating system in Nokia devices. If Nokia devices fall flat, Windows Phone 7 will fall flat with it. However, if Nokia can offer popular devices, Microsoft might just become a major player in the mobile space. If nothing else, making sure Nokia stays relevant over the coming years is integral to Microsoft’s future.

3Windows 8 Matters

Microsoft’s decision to release Windows 8 next year surprised some who thought that the company would wait longer between releases. Now that Windows 8 is slated for a 2012 release, Microsoft will need to spend the next year proving to customers why they should opt for Windows 8. Considering how few companies have adopted Windows 7 so far, it might be a harder sell than some think.

4Office 365 Can Work

The importance of Office 365 cannot be underestimated. Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite could either be the next big thing for both small and large organizations, or one of the biggest blunders Microsoft has committed in years. Microsoft has put a lot of time and effort into Office 365, and the company must prove over the next year that the platform can work.

5Google Isn’t A Huge Threat

Whenever discussions on Microsoft come up, someone always points to Google as the company that’s taking the Windows maker down. In the next year, Microsoft will need to find a way to change the discourse on its relationship with Google. If customers believe that Google is chipping away at Microsoft’s lead and it can take the company down, it won’t help Ballmer and Company over the long-term.

6It Can Continue to Grow Bing

Though it’s not often mentioned as a key platform from Microsoft, Bing is extremely important to the company’s future financial health. As Google has shown, there is an inordinate amount of money in search advertising, and the onus is on Microsoft to steal market share away and grow its online-ad business. Over the next year, Microsoft must dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to continuing growing Bing.

7It Can Work Well With OEMs

So far, Microsoft hasn’t had much luck with tablets. At the Consumer Electronics Show last year, Microsoft promised a host of devices from several vendors, but many of those vendors are now either offering their own software or working with Google’s Android OS. Microsoft must improve its relations with vendors.

8No Title

Tablets Will Steal Market ShareSpeaking of tablets, it’s important to note that Microsoft’s market share in that key sector is practically non-existent. Apple’s iPad, on the other hand, is easily dominating. In the coming year, Microsoft will need to work more closely with hardware manufacturers to deliver as many tablets to the market as possible. Slates are vastly important to Microsoft’s future.

9Ballmer Can Hold His Own

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has come under fire lately over his handling of the company. Critics say that competitors, including Google and Apple, are running circles around Microsoft when it comes to innovation, and Ballmer has yet to find a way to respond. Investors, on the other hand, are concerned that Ballmer can’t get the company’s shares moving. Over the next year, Ballmer will need to prove to every stakeholder that he can hold his own.

10Internet Explorer Can Stay Relevant

For years, Internet Explorer has been integral to Microsoft’s business. But with the issues caused by Internet Explorer 6, and the growth of Firefox, Microsoft’s browser has lost much of its past glory. Combine that with the growing popularity of Chrome, and some believe that Internet Explorer might lose its importance over the next few years. Microsoft will need to change that, and do everything it can to return Internet Explorer to its former place of absolute dominance.