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Microsoft’s most epic wins and fails of 2015

From Windows 10 to Surface Book to Hololens and more: What kicked ass, and what flat-out disappointed us? PCWorld reviews Microsoft’s biggest hits and misses of 2015.

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Get that bad taste of Windows 8 out of your mouth, because Microsoft generally had a really good year in 2015. Redmond’s best new prodcuts were really impressive... and they helped compensate for a couple of of disappointments as well.

[Windows 10]

Yes, we have to start this list with Windows 10. Microsoft listened to all the complaints about Windows 8, and overhauled the user interface to be as desktop friendly as Windows 7.

Look! The Start menu’s back! Finally.

Windows 10 also brought Cortana to the desktop, and gave us universal apps that work across PCs, phones and tablets.

I use Windows 10 every day on two different machine. It just works. And it makes up for three years of unfortunate pain and suffering.

[Windows 10: WIN!]

[Surface Book]

Have you seen the Surface Book? It looks gorgeous. It’s like someone at Microsoft said, “Nope, that’s it! If our hardware partners can’t create the ultimate 2-in-1 laptop, then we’re gonna make one of our own.”

So check out the stunning display. Check out that beautiful locking hinge. And, please, plays some games on this things. The tablet portion is a full-fledged PC, but Microsoft added a legit graphics chip in the keyboard -- and that delivers unprecedented levels of performance.

[Surface Book: WIN!]

[Hololens]

OK, it’s not a shipping product yet, but I did the Hololens demo, and it was like freaking high-tech acid trip. Or what I imagine a high-tech acid trip to be.

Microsoft’s augmented reality headset lets you interact with virtual 3D objects right on top of your normal field of vision. During my demo, I played with an architectural design program, and was able able to merge a real-world model with a 3D model with just a few mouse clicks. It was immediately impressive... and, if I’m being honest, trippy as hell.

Hololens could become a gaming platform. It could become a productivity platform. It could be both. Either way, I have to applaud Microsoft for doubling down on augmented reality when the rest of the world is gunning for virtual reality.

[Hololens: WIN!]

[Microsoft Band]

I apologize for harshing everyone’s mellow, but the nerds in Redmond released another Microsoft Band in 2015, and it really doesn’t do much to atone for the sins of the original version.

The design is still way too ugly, and the band remains severely limited in the apps department. The Microsoft Band isn’t much more than a niche health device, and in today’s rocky wearables market, that’s not enough. Especially, when full-fledged smartwatches from Apple and Google look better and do so much more.

[Microsoft Band: FAIL!]

[Microsoft Edge]

Microsoft’s Edge web browser was supposed to wow us with a lean and mean profile but we found it underperforms its competitors. And while it’s faster than Internet Explorer, it’s not as fast as Chrome—and that’s disappointing considering all of Microsoft’s focus on speed.

But perhaps worst of all, Edge just isn’t very convenient. It lacks solid plug-in support, and it doesn’t sync across platforms.

Edge is free with Windows 10. But come on, it’s productivity software. Shouldn’t Microsoft make the best browser in the world?

[Microsoft Edge: FAIL!]

[Microsoft Continuum]

Microsoft Continuum fulfills that impossible dream of all hardcore smartphone users--the ability to use your phone as a full-fledged PC when you’re on the road.

It all ties back to Windows 10 universal apps. On your phone they look like normal mobile apps. But now hook up that phone to Microsoft’s Continnum dock, and plug that into a display, keyboard and mouse. Those mobile apps are now desktop apps on a big-screen monitor.

Continuum isn’t perfect, but Microsoft proves it can work. And it’s a trick and neither Apple nor Google are even close to touching.

[Microsoft Continuum: WIN!]