Microsoft, it's time. For the past year the company's promised that Windows 10 would finally turn the tide in the company's favor. The chance to prove that starts Wednesday, as Microsoft's Build developer's conference opens in San Francisco.
We already know that Windows 10, which has been slowly revealed to us through a very public development process, aims to be a unified OS that will work the same on desktops, notebooks, tablets, phones, and more. On top of it will run a new breed of universal apps, software that can run on all platforms with minimal reconfiguration. It's the direction Microsoft has to take if it has any hope of regaining ground from iOS, Android, and other competitors.
Windows 10 is just the centerpiece of Microsoft's larger effort to win back users and developers alike, however. Here are the other big announcements we expect at the conference--that is, if Microsoft expects to stay on course.
1. A focus on Windows 10 phone
We expect Microsoft to talk much more about Windows 10 for phones. On the whole, the company's vision for Windows on mobile devices appears far less mature than its plans for larger screens. The most recent build is just starting to flesh out the Continuum vision of altering Windows' appearance to favor a touch-centric tablet mode. Also, regardless of whether Microsoft officially agrees with the views of a former designer who explained away the flaws of Windows 10 for phones, there are a number of design inconsistencies that bear resolution.
Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst for Gartner, thinks that might include some new hardware announcements. Flagship phones, anyone?
2. Universal apps or bust
Windows 10 may frame the conversation, but I'd be amazed if universal apps weren't the primary thrust of Build.
"For a couple of decades Microsoft 'won' the market because it won the hearts and minds of the developer community," Kleynhans said. Not anymore: "The new crop of developers and startups are looking elsewhere (iOS and Android) before they look at any kind of Windows development."
Microsoft has led the way in developing "universal" versions of apps like Calendar, Mail,Maps and Photos, as well as teasing the universal versions of the Office apps that are virtually guaranteed to be released this week. Microsoft will undoubtedly encourage developers to follow suit with their own apps--hopefully with a beefed-up version of the universal app development tool it released last year. The thinking, of course, is that developers can write apps for the millions and millions of desktop PC users--and pick up some incremental Windows phone users in the process. The multi-billion-dollar question will be whether those developers will buy into that way of thinking.
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