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Microsoft's time to shine: The 5 biggest developments we expect from Build 2015

Mark Hachman | April 29, 2015
Windows 10 is the centerpiece of a broader vision of universal apps and services running on all devices. At Build, we should see how it's all coming together.

3. Making the app store universal
We've known about Microsoft's vision for a universal app store for about two years, tying together mobile and desktop platforms. But it didn't materialize in Windows 8.1.

"We should have one set of developer APIs on all of our devices," Terry Myerson, who oversees Microsoft's operating system group, has said. "And all of the apps we bring to end users should be available on all of our devices." 

Actually putting them in user's hands, however, will require a universal store that sells those universal apps with licensing terms and user reach that developers will find attractive. (Note that I'm not expecting a "universal" apps store to include the Xbox One platform, yet. I would expect that that's on the roadmap.) Let's hope Microsoft does some spring cleaning and purges its "crap apps" in the process. "They need to shore up support for Windows 10 Universal App development," added Michael Silver of Gartner,

4. Office as a platform: Office 365 APIs
Microsoft may also outline plans for third-party app development for Office. CEO Satya Nadella himself tipped this hand during last week's earnings call: "At Build next week I will talk even more about Office as a platform," he said, "and how developers can connect into the Office framework to both harness the rich data and have their own app extensions available to ultimately a billion-plus Office users." 

Given all of the sessions about "Office 365 APIs" on the Build schedule, it's a safe bet that this is the phrase that will be used on stage. Office 365 APIs should allow third-party apps to hook into Office, most likely for authentication, additional functionality, and to tap into Microsoft's business intelligence.

It's also possible that Microsoft will reboot its 2013 Office App Store, which tried to jump-start  developers by creating add-ons for Word, Excel, and others. But users either failed to understand that the plugins were there or refused to use them. Developers, meanwhile, stopped contributing code. The bottom line: the Office App Store is barren.

5. Windows as a service
Last week, Nadella said that he believes Microsoft should have an "annuity" or "subscription" relationship with both consumers and business customers, asking them to pay for services like Office 365 or Xbox Live on an annual or monthly basis. Windows 10, he said, "will be a service across an array of devices and will usher in a new era of more personal computing. An era where the mobility of the experience, not the device, is paramount."

Microsoft has already trademarked the name "Windows 365"--more evidence that a subscription service is nigh.

Nadella's remarks occurred too recently to be ignored at Build. Gartner's Kleynhans, however, thinks substantive information could wait until Microsoft hosts its financial analyst meeting later this week, or perhaps even the Microsoft Ignite cloud infrastructure show on May 4, when Windows pricing is also expected to be announced. 

While those will likely be the biggest events at Build, Microsoft still has plenty to do to keep moving in the right direction. What do you think needs to happen? Let us know in the comments.  


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