Microsoft hopes to impress developers this week as it offers up more details about Windows 8 at the BUILD conference, which aims to show how Microsoft's flagship operating system can be leveraged on a variety of platforms.
"BUILD is where the full spectrum of hardware and software developers, from start-ups and entrepreneurs to those who work for the world's biggest brands, come together to get a deeper understanding of Microsoft's product road map," said Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president of the company's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group.
Microsoft's Big Tent
First unveiled at the D9 conference in June, Windows 8 will let developers tap the operating system to deliver a variety of apps, including apps for tablet computers. If developers like what they see, it could help Microsoft stem the tide of OS defections.
Microsoft described this year's BUILD, which runs Tuesday through Friday, as a big-tent approach. The conference promises every developer an opportunity to leverage their existing skills and code assets; create apps that feel like a natural extension of the device they're running on, with no extra coding or testing required; take advantage of the full power of the devices their app will run on; and have an easy way to sell what they create.
"Developers are looking for ways to build a tighter relationship between a brand and its customers and create new types of ways to interact," said Jamin Spitzer, senior director of platform strategy in Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group. "For the people who grew up with the web, or grew up building applications for mobile devices, exploiting the PC and building experiences on the world's most powerful devices is an amazing opportunity."
Post-PC Era Still Far Off
Some have called Windows 8 a make or break release for Microsoft. Similar sentiments surfaced before the Windows 7 launch, which followed the high-profile failure of Vista. Although Vista sported interesting technologies and features, the operating system met with resistance from some vendor partners and marketplace adoption was slack. The experience with Vista may still have some industry watchers on the skeptical side.
"The stakes for Microsoft may be higher than they might have been for a follow-on OS because of Vista," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "That and what appears to be a lack of market interest in Windows mobile devices has a lot of people questioning whether Microsoft can ever be a competitive player in the smartphone space."
But Microsoft's flagship product seems fairly safe for now. Despite all the talk of a post-PC era, King points to market statistics that indicate about 400 million PCs will be sold in 2011, and at least 90 percent of them will be Windows machines. Still, King sees the business and consumer shift toward mobile products a reason to question the future.
"If this move toward ultra mobility continues, we have to ask how that will affect companies like Microsoft, Intel and AMD," Kings aid. "So the stakes are high. I think what we will be seeing at BUILD is the world according to Microsoft. We have to ask how well that vision squares with what we've been seeing in the marketplace over the last year or so."