Microsoft Woos Windows 8, Windows Phone Developers at Build 2012

While Microsoft was quick to celebrate the release of Windows 8 last week, in many ways the hard work still lies ahead.

The new operating system sports a geometric layout, emphasizing third-party applications and touch navigation that works across PCs and mobile devices.

So far, companies like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Evernote and eBay have contributed apps, but many consumers will probably find the catalog thin. The selection is even more pressing, given that some versions of the operating system — called Windows RT — will not support older-style programs.

This week, Microsoft is hoping to fix that by hosting hundreds of developers at its Redmond, Wash., campus, under a big white tent, where it will be building its best case for why developers should be creating apps for its platform. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has already been busy giving the hard sell, projecting that a year from now we’ll see close to 400 million new devices running the new operating system, to make it “the single largest opportunity for software developers today.” That includes hardware spanning phones, tablets and PCs.

The company is also trying to pitch developers on its broader Windows ecosystem including Windows Phone 8, which was formally announced Monday in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for the keynote, starting at 9 am PT.

Earlier:

8:51 am: Hello folks, welcome to Redmond, Wash., where it’s raining super hard. But heck, we can’t complain since it’s not a hurricane.

As people get into their seats under the massive white tent, we’re getting a lesson from artist Jordan Rudess on how he uses a Surface to create music.

8:58 am: Rudess is rocking out. Hard to see him in the photo, but he’s bent over his keyboard, mixing the beats.

It’s like electro-funk, extraordinary techno-like music. But he’s legit. He went to Juilliard when he was 9.

Audience goes wild as Rudess leaves the stage after his finale. Now a little stage set-up while we watch a promotional video showing launch scenes from last Friday from around the globe.

9:08 am: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Steve Ballmer to the stage. He mentions the rainy weather, and says that today’s festivities sold out in 58 minutes. He promises a bigger, better event next year. (Indoors, maybe?)

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are here, so how are they doing? Not a huge amount of data yet, but he says in three days, four million Windows 8 upgrades sold. Those are all individual users buying a copy — we’ve sold tens of millions of units to corporate customers, who can update when they choose.

9:12 am: Ballmer says lots of great things being said, namedrops quotes from CNET, Geek.com, AP and The Verge.

“The level of enthusiasm we’ve seen is exciting … I think we are really resonating across the board with the work we are bringing to market.”

Ballmer starts the pitch to developers: “Some points that are useful for those who are thinking about developing for Windows 8 today. With Windows 8, we absolutely have in our hands the best PCs — hardware and software — ever made. The best laptops, desktops, the new tablet meets PC form factor.”

9:17 am: With the launch of Windows Phone 8, it’s a first-class member of the Windows family, Ballmer says. You can read about the phones that were announced yesterday here. “If you want the best experience with your Windows computer, you’ll own a Windows phone. If you want an experience that’s most personal, you’ll want a Windows phone.”

9:20 am: Ballmer promises that he’ll be talking in a moment about the opportunity to make money and drive volume. But right now he’s touching on the fact that developers will be able to write once and have an application that runs across PCs that come with all kinds of form factors.

“You can not only build popular apps, but the apps you deliver on Windows will be better applications than you can build anywhere else, if you choose to marry the opportunities in the software.”

That’s a huge statement, but in order for them to be better than anywhere else, he’s saying developers have to embrace everything they have to offer, such as the opportunity to build live tiles, and integration with SkyDrive, etc. In other words, use everything that Microsoft has to offer!

9:25 am: Ballmer is going to do all his own demos, even though he isn’t a professional demoer. He’s got an 80-inch-plus slate! Huge touchscreen. He’s joking around and getting a lot of laughs from the audience. Someone is tweeting about him in another language — he says, “That’s got to be great!”

He’s sort of like a weatherman, giving us a tour of the Microsoft campus on Bing maps. Now, he’s bringing up OneNote. He makes a couple of notes on the screen, using a stylus.

9:30 am: Next demo. Ballmer is on a Dell desktop, and he’s talking about hanging out with Jessica Alba yesterday at the Windows Phone launch. He does a Jessica Alba search on the PC — there are no related apps, but some photos of the two of them, and then he searches the Web.

9:35 am: And now the smallest demo in the Windows 8 family: The phone. Phones on display are from Samsung, Nokia and HTC. He’s got Bill Gates pinned to the front of his screen. He’s also syncing his notes that he changed earlier on the 80-inch screen. Sure enough, the ink annotations show up on the screen.

9:38 am: Back to medium-sized devices, a one-pound Asus tablet. He’s tempted to throw it to someone in the first row, since it feels so light. But he won’t, because “he’s logged in to his email.”

Sorry, correction. That tablet was 1.15 pounds.

Next up, the Microsoft Surface, which gets applause from the crowd. Before this next demonstration, Ballmer admits: “I’m not a touch typist in any form!”

9:43 am: Ballmer is showing off Xbox Music on the Surface, by streaming “Beautiful Day.” Side note: If you haven’t tried it out yet, it rocks.

Next tablet demo is a Lenovo that weighs 1.32 pounds and runs all applications, not just ones made specifically for Windows 8. This tablet comes with a stylus to make it easy to make annotations.

9:47 am: Now Ballmer is showing off a touch laptop from Acer that weighs less than three pounds. Do people want touch in a laptop? Ballmer asks. Yes, he answers himself. This is a good enough machine to do testing, but also the development of apps, he says. He’s pinching to zoom in the new MSN app, and clicking through headlines.

Ballmer: “If it’s not clear, we’re all in with Windows 8. Every group at Microsoft has contributed something.”

9:53 am: Ballmer steps off the stage, and Steven Guggenheimer, corporate VP of developer and platform evangelism, is up next.

Looks like Ballmer’s job was to sell us on the hardware. Now the other Steve is here to show us a lot of apps. And, oh boy, he’s a fast talker.

That was cool, Guggenheimer just connected an Xbox controller to a Surface to play a game. You’ll also be able to Skype together with a friend while playing a game on a split screen.

Now something a little more serious: Using AutoCAD. It’s running the old Windows 7 app on a new Windows 8 desktop, although it has been upgraded to include a sketch application that can be used with a Windows 8 stylus.

10:02 am: Here’s some on the economics. This isn’t news, but, as Microsoft has already said, if developers choose to deliver the app through the Windows Store, including payments, then Microsoft shares 70 percent of the revenue with the developer, with the opportunity to increase that to 80 percent.

He’s saying that developers can use their own payments system, Microsoft’s, or PayPal.

10:04 am: Cameo appearance by Michael Bayle, the SVP and GM of ESPN Mobile. He’s going to give us a peek into his experiences developing for Windows 8.

A look at the new Windows 8 app from ESPN, built in the “Metro” style: Viewers will have an experience that is synced with their previous preferences. Listen to podcasts, view photos or follow real-time scores. “It’s our mission to serve sports fans, anytime, anywhere.” The app launches today on Windows 8.

10:08 am: Steve Ballmer comes back onstage. He’s scrolling through the catalog of apps: Disney’s Where’s my Water? game, Wikipedia, Hulu Plus, Fitbit, Expedia. Others coming as of today: SAP, Dropbox and Twitter just announced.

“One thing I didn’t have a chance to show you, but with the built-in People app, you can actually connect directly into the system, so when I put my son or my wife on my desktop, that connects to Facebook and Twitter. The work that Twitter announced this morning to bring an app to Windows 8 will highlight and showcase capabilities.”

Here we go. Here’s the reality of it. The software and hardware are nice, but there has to be volume for developers to get excited. “We have an installed 670 million people on Windows 7. Windows 8 takes less resources than Windows 7. Every one of those is a potential Windows upgrade. In the last few days, four million sales have moved in that direction. We don’t know what will happen with the PC market over the next year. I think with Windows 8, we’ll see growth and vitality, but even if it stays flat, there will be 400 million new Windows devices that you can target with your application.”

He says that 400 million is “for sure.”

As for Windows Phone 8, Ballmer says that most people think they are a small player, but they are offering the most differentiated experiences. “We’ll do more marketing, and better marketing.”

That commitment gets huge applause from the crowd. They want to see more Windows commercials!

“You will not be able to pick up a magazine, go to the Internet or watch TV without seeing one of our ads frequently.”

He adds: “You have an opportunity to make money — for you, for your company or for your shareholders.”

“I guarantee this will be the best opportunity developers will see. I really want us to build together. We need your support; we need your commitment. For those of you in the room — not on the Webcast — it is my pleasure that every Build attendee will get 100 gigabytes of SkyDrive storage for free.”

Another Oprah moment: Everyone is getting a Microsoft Surface RT with 32GB and a Touch Cover. For that, he asks two promises: Write lots of applications and, since you can’t pick up the Surfaces until 7 pm, stay seated and don’t run.

Enjoy Build!

10:22 am: That’s it, folks. Thanks for tuning in. The bulk of the keynote is over, but plenty more sessions are scheduled for the rest of the week to address how to create the best applications for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. We’ll be back tomorrow at the same time for the Day 2 keynote.


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