Microsoft Tempts Developers With SDK And Free Gadgets

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Microsoft has kicked off its developer conference with a new Phone 8 SDK, plus free smartphones and tablet PCs

Microsoft has begun its Build 2012 conference with a number of announcements designed to appeal to the developer community.

For the news, the software giant announced the delivery of its Windows Phone 8 Software Development Kit (SDK), and for the love, Microsoft announced that each attendee would receive a 32GB Microsoft Surface RT PC with a Touch Cover and a new Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 powered smartphone.


Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s director of product management for Windows Phone, came onstage at Build to announce the public availability of the Windows Phone 8 SDK, which comes just a day after Microsoft held its launch event for the new Windows Phone 8 platform in San Francisco on 29 October.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer started off the developer conference by extolling the opportunity that Windows 8 creates for developers, noting that, “In the last three days, we sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades.” Ballmer also noted that the opportunity for developers is greatest with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. He said the overall opportunity for developers includes the 670 million potential upgrades that are out there and the 400 million new Windows 8 devices that are expected to be sold. The 670 million figure is the installed base of Windows 7 licenses Microsoft has sold, he said.

Ballmer also announced that in addition to the many apps available for Windows 8 now, other major players such as Twitter, SAP and Dropbox will deliver apps for the platform. In a tweet on the subject, Twitter said its Windows 8 client would be available “in the months ahead.”  Michael Bayle, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Mobile, announced a new ESPN app for Windows 8 and said it “offers us a chance to reimagine the Windows experience.” He then offered the audience the first public look at the app.

Ballmer also demonstrated Windows 8 running on several devices, from a Microsoft Surface to a Windows Phone to what Ballmer jokingly described as an “82-inch Windows 8 slate” – which was actually an 82-inch touch display from Perceptive Pixel, which Microsoft acquired in July 2012.

“Windows 8 is the best opportunity for software developers today,” Ballmer said. “I guarantee you this will be the best opportunity software developers will see,” he added. Ballmer then exhorted developers to go forth and build great Windows 8 apps and initially said each attendee would receive 100GB of SkyDrive storage. And after working the room up to a low boil, Ballmer added that each attendee would also receive a free Microsoft Surface.

Gallo said the new Windows Phone SDK 8.0 provides developers with the tools that you need to develop apps and games for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.5. The new Windows Phone 8 SDK enhances the platform opportunity with new developer features such as support for native code and in-app purchases, he said.

Better Hardware

Moreover, with Windows Phone 8, Ballmer acknowledged Microsoft’s low market share, but added, “We have the most differentiated approach to the market and we have absolutely killer hardware. We will do more marketing and absolutely better marketing for Windows 8 systems and Windows Phone systems, he said to hearty applause from the audience of thousands of developers.

So why write apps for Windows 8? Because of the new apps, the new form factors, the best chance for commercial success and the most volume provided by the platform, Ballmer said.

Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief evangelist for developer and platform evangelism, took to the stage to demonstrate the viability of building on the Windows 8 platform.

In an 30 October blog post on the issue, Guggenheimer said:

“The developer opportunity on Windows has never been greater. Between expected PC shipment volumes in the coming year and the incredibly flexible terms of the Windows Store, the path to app monetization on Windows represents a huge business opportunity to everyone from the independent developer with a great idea to the world’s biggest companies who develop apps, games and device experiences to reach customers, extend their brands and drive revenue. It’s easy to publish to the Windows Store, and Microsoft offers the most developer-friendly revenue-sharing terms on the market. Speaking of devices, we’re carrying forward momentum from our recent launch events to showcase the broad array of incredible tablets, notebooks, Ultrabooks, desktops, all-in-ones and phones that our OEM partners are bringing to market, as well as Microsoft Surface, all of which are very much a part of the developer opportunity on Windows.”

Windows is more accessible to more developers than it’s ever been in Microsoft’s history, he said. “Whether you’re a developer who builds apps for the Microsoft platform today, or an HTML5 developer looking for a new path to app monetisation, everything you know about writing code comes with you to Windows 8. We’re seeing great momentum in the Windows Store. Companies such as Expedia, Fitbit, Hotels.com, SAP and Twitter are all building apps for the Windows Store.”

Moreover, not only did Ballmer mention the commonality between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but both Gallo and Guggenheimer said the platform commonality and shared core between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is very much a part of the opportunity.

“This is about enabling developers to quickly get from a great idea to a money-making app running on multiple devices, by reusing their skills and, in some cases, the actual code, all built using a common toolset in Visual Studio,” Guggenheimer said in his post. “The new Windows Phone 8 SDK enhances the platform opportunity with new developer features such as support for native code and in-app purchases. With users’ rising expectation of apps, games and experiences that span multiple devices and form factors, we’re giving developers the ability to use their existing knowledge, skills and code to reach hundreds of millions of Windows users.”

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