A.J. Feather

Journalist, Developer

I'm a Missouri native currently seeking a dual masters in computer science and journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Every week I also host an awesome podcast called "Integrate" with my friend Mikah, which you can find at Integrate.FM.

Before moving to New York, I obtained undergraduate degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In Columbia, I hosted a weekly show called "Talking Politics" for KBIA, the local NPR member station and produced, wrote and anchored video for Newsy.com way too early in the morning.

There has never been a political column I did not enjoy reading or an Apple product I did not enjoy using.

3 Things Microsoft Did Right

Microsoft was handed off to CEO, Satya Nadella, this week.  I thought I would use the event to talk about a few things I admire about the company.  Microsoft has taken a lot of flack in recent years.  Since OSX moved into the market and Vista was released, Windows has seemingly taken a backseat in growth.  Though Windows 8 did quietly pass OSX’s market share in September.  The goal of this post is to point out great innovations Microsoft made that changed the way we do things, even if we now prefer to do those things on expensive machines with a fruit emblazoned upon them.

1. The First Great Desktop Environment

Though Xerox released the first desktop in 1970 and Apple soon followed with the Lisa and Macintosh, the idea of a desktop was first popularized among the general population with Windows ‘95.  The desktop interface has changed slightly over the years, but a lot of key features remain - icons, the taskbar and the start button.  In fact, the normal layout was such a staple users lost their minds when the start button was removed in Windows 8.  Though several workarounds were quickly built.  (If you still haven’t updated and need the start button back, here’s a tutorial.)

2. The First Great Development Platform

I only used Windows for the first 14 years of my life.  I never used an Apple computer or Linux.  Why would I?  Windows had all the games and applications I needed. (aka Roller Coaster Tycoon and the greatest media player, Windows Media Player)  Developers were certainly more apt to write code for Windows and rightfully so.  When given a choice between writing a product for 90 percent or more of consumers or writing a product for less than 10 percent, who would write for the latter?  Windows still dominates the PC market long after Macs have become standard on countless college campuses.  I switched to OSX in 2008 with my first MacBook, but it’s still way easier to find program downloads with an ‘.exe’ extension than a ‘.dmg.’  In fact, I have to run Windows on my Mac through VMWare for several Computer Science classes, due to the lack of ability to use Visual Studio in OSX.

3. Kinect

The XBOX is important to Microsoft, especially since the 360 model completely dominated the market for 25 months, but it wasn’t game changing on its own.  Sure, it had Halo, but nothing made it stand out of the crowd.  That is, until Microsoft introduced Kinect.  It was the first real-world interactive media that worked for a game console.  The Kinect was such a hit it became the centerpiece of the next-generation XBOX console.  With improved voice control and gesture recognition, the XBOX One blew away the competition to become the most powerful home entertainment system to date.  (In my opinion.  PS4 owners probably disagree.)

The Wii was fun for a while, and the Playstation Move was probably the best implementation of motion-based video games that involved a controller.  But you can't top the Kinect.  It's the only technology that made it in a big way to the next-generation console, and in many respects, it MADE the next-generation console.