Ina Fried

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Microsoft Brings Its Developer Conference to Enemy Territory: Silicon Valley

Microsoft has held developer conferences all over the world in recent years. But the company hasn’t held its main event in San Francisco since 1997.

This year’s Build conference, which officially kicks off on Wednesday, will take place at Moscone Center — a spot that has recently been home to events by Apple, Oracle and Google.

“I think coming down here is a good thing to do,” developer unit VP Steve Guggenheimer said in an interview. “I think it is good for us to show up, to be honest.”

The event comes at something of a crossroads for Microsoft. The company, which long focused on software and left the PC making to others, is in the midst of trying to reshape itself into a devices-and-services company to better compete with the likes of Apple. And, as previously reported by AllThingsD, CEO Steve Ballmer is also evaluating whether further personnel changes are needed, including among the company’s top ranks.

The transition, while arguably necessary, is a difficult one for the company and for its longtime partners. Microsoft has struggled to win consumer and developer support for Windows 8 — an ambitious effort to rewrite the company’s flagship operating system for a world of mobile devices.

A big part of the Build conference will be the release of a preview version of Windows 8.1, an update designed to address some early criticisms of the product.

There will be some additional news, for sure, but a large part of the conference will be focused on explaining where developers fit into the new Microsoft. Support for programmers is a longtime strength for Microsoft, and the company is keen to talk up how it has ready options for traditional Microsoft developers and for those more used to writing for the Web or mobile operating systems.

“We have a bunch of good news that’s out there, but we haven’t put it together for developers,” Guggenheimer said.

Microsoft will be aiming to make a few key points at the event.

It will be trying to paint itself as more flexible and developer-friendly than rivals. On this front, Microsoft will point to the many programming languages it supports, and its more flexible e-commerce terms, in which it takes a smaller cut of the revenue and lets developers use their own payment systems if they wish.

The company could also explain where smaller developers could plug into the newly announced Xbox One console. The current-generation Xbox 360 has a means for developers to create titles that can easily be downloaded to the device, but the company has yet to articulate its complete developer strategy for the new Xbox.

Meanwhile, it has gone quite a while without announcing a significant Windows Phone update, having said little at this year’s Mobile World Congress. However, it is unclear whether Build will be a big spot for Windows Phone news.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald