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Microsoft signals strategy shift at Build conference

At its Build development conference, Microsoft unveiled Windows Runtime to unify code bases for desktop and mobile Windows applications

By Joab Jackson
April 2, 2014 04:56 PM ET

IDG News Service - Instead of relegating desktops to a lower priority while pursuing the mobile device market, Microsoft will integrate its PC dominance into its current core strategy to become a devices and services company, opening keynotes at the company's 2014 Build developer conference suggest.

"We want our users to think about the Windows family of devices, and the consistency of the user experiences," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, speaking Wednesday at the conference in San Francisco.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, speaking at the Microsoft BUILD conference.

While Microsoft lacks significant market share in the mobile and tablet space, it does have 1.5 billion Windows users worldwide, and is working to bridge these computing worlds.

Developers will also see a consistent experience no matter which Microsoft platform they work with.

"We started out as a tools company, before we were an Office company or a Windows company," Nadella said. "Again, we are in that era" of serving multiple platforms and form factors.

In this light, the Build keynotes introduced a number of updates and plans around the theme of unifying the Windows experience, for both users and developers, across the company's variations of Windows, including Windows 8 desktop and Modern interfaces, Windows Phone and Xbox.

The company also announced Windows Phone 8.1 and the first update of Windows 8.1, along with a number of Nokia phones and assorted developer tools.

The Windows Runtime architecture will allow developers to develop a single code base for an application that can run across Windows desktop, Windows Phone and, eventually, the Xbox, explained David Treadwell, Microsoft corporate vice president of the operating system group. He demonstrated how a single app can have the same interface for mobile, tablet and desktop interfaces, or the developer can customize the interface for each form factor.

BUILD Windowsw Runtime
Microsoft CVP David Treadwell shows off the Windows Runtime, offering the ability to run a single Windpows app across all Windows platforms

An update to the company's Visual Studio IDE (Integrated development environment) will allow developers to store a common base of application code and keep separate folders for customizations for each separate platform.

Also for the developers, Microsoft open sourced -- under the Apache Foundation 2.0 license -- a collection of JavaScript controls, called WinJS. The company's DirectX multimedia runtime can now be used across Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox, also potentially saving developers time coding graphics around each platform.

The company also announced that it would provide Windows 8 and Windows RT for free to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for devices with screens smaller than 9 inches.

Microsoft is also extending this unified Windows approach for its app store as well. Now once a user buys an app in the store, they can have the rights to use both the mobile and the desktop version. This potentially opens a new revenue stream for Windows phone developers because they can now sell desktop versions of their programs to Microsoft's large Windows user base, Nadella noted.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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