Microsoft understands that its platforms are only as good as the software running on those platforms—and the integrations developers create for those platforms. While its Build 2014 developer conference, held in San Francisco this week, unveiled many platform enhancements, the company’s real message was “Please, please code for our platforms.”
You’ve probably already read some of the highlights from the conference, like universal Windows apps that will run on desktops, servers, phones, tablets and even Xbox game consoles; Cortana, Microsoft’s clone of Apple’s Siri artificial intelligence personal assistant; royalty-free Windows licenses for devices with small screens or no screens; the Windows 8.1 Update that will tighten integration between devices and Windows Store apps; and the Microsoft Azure Preview Portal that will help developers and IT professionals manage cloud-based services.
Microsoft platforms continue to evolve, and despite the low market share for some of them (such as Windows Phone), Microsoft’s products are popular among its customers. Microsoft’s platforms are innovative (well, Cortana looks like a catch-up rush job, despite all its APIs), they are reliable, the pricing is competitive, and they are all 100% developer friendly.
SDKs everywhere! Sample applications everywhere! Solid online forums, lots of support channels; Microsoft’s developer programs put everyone to shame, from Apple to Google to Amazon to Facebook. And while Microsoft’s former CEO, Steve Ballmer, wasn’t on stage to scream “Developers! Developers! Developers!” the company made it clear that developers are key to its future success.
For example, the new Visual Studio Online is a rebranding of the Team Foundation Service, and lets developers host projects in the cloud. It provides a cloud-based code editor (called Monaco), continuous integration, compatibility with Eclipse and Xcode, and a service-level agreement that promises 99.9% uptime. I’d prefer to see four or five 9s, but that’s a good start. Microsoft also claimed that Visual Studio Online already has 1 million users.
A lot of applause greeted the introduction of the Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 release candidate, which makes it easier to develop a single codebase for writing apps for multiple Microsoft platforms and runtimes. See Soma’s blog for the details.
The biggest cheers at the Build conference came when the company announced that every paid attendee would be given a free Xbox One game console to encourage coders to create universal Windows apps. While none of the enterprise and mobile programmers I spoke to indicated any interest in porting to Xbox, they all agreed: Microsoft definitely loves developers.
What do you think about universal Windows apps? Write me at email@example.com.
Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates.