Microsoft hopes to get more people using the next version of its Windows software on all kinds of devices by giving them access to many of the same apps they’re already using on Apple or Android phones.
In a major strategy shift, a top executive told an audience of several thousand software developers that Microsoft will release new tools to help them quickly adapt the apps they’ve built for Apple or Android gadgets, so they will work on smartphones, PCs and other devices that use the new Windows 10 operating system coming later this year.
On the first day of the company’s annual software conference, other executives showed off more uses for Microsoft’s holographic “augmented reality” headset, the HoloLens – although it’s not yet for sale. They also announced the official name for a new web browser, called “Edge,” that they promised will be faster and more useful than the Internet Explorer that’s been a Microsoft mainstay for 20 years.
All those initiatives are tied to the impending release of Windows 10, the centerpiece of Microsoft’s ambitions to regain the stature it commanded when Windows-based PCs dominated the computing world. Today, after losing ground to smartphones and tablets that run software from rivals Apple and Google, Microsoft wants to make Windows 10 the universal software for PCs, phones and other Internet-connected gadgets.
“Windows 10 represents a new generation of Windows, built for an era of more personal computing,” CEO Satya Nadella said during a keynote speech, adding that today’s consumers and corporate workers want to have the same experience when they are using a variety of devices.
“Our goal is to make Windows 10 the most attractive development platform ever,” Vice President Terry Myerson said.
To win over consumers who use competing software, Microsoft needs to persuade outside developers, who create software for consumers and corporate clients, it’s worth their time to create new apps and programs for Windows 10.
“Getting developer buy-in is absolutely the crucial thing,” said J.P. Gownder, a tech industry analyst at Forrester Research. He said Microsoft has struggled with a “chicken-and-egg” problem, in which developers have been reluctant to build mobile apps for Windows because relatively few people use Windows phones and tablets.
Currently, there are more than 1.4 million apps for Android phones and about the same for Apple devices, while there are only a few hundred thousand apps that work on Windows phones and tablets.