Windows 8.1 top priority at Build meeting
Microsoft’s Build conference, which begins this week in San Francisco, will try to deepen interest of software developers in the upcoming Windows 8.1 platform.
Seattle Times technology reporter
Unlike the previous two years at the Build conference, there is no radical new operating system to be introduced or launched.
Rather, at this year’s Build, Microsoft’s annual conference for third-party developers Wednesday through Friday at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the focus will be on an updated version of that operating system — called Windows 8.1 — as well as the road map for other Microsoft products and services.
(Microsoft is releasing a preview version of Windows 8.1 on Wednesday.)
This Build will highlight how developers can bring the apps they’ve built to connect with where Microsoft’s product lineup is heading. It also will show how they can build apps that bridge Microsoft’s devices and products.
“Sometimes we’ll do: ‘Here’s a product, and here’s another and another,’ ” said Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the developer-platform-evangelism division. “One of the opportunities we have at Build is to say how all those things connect.”
Getting developers excited about creating applications for Microsoft’s platforms is integral to those platforms’ success.
For instance, building up the number of apps in the Windows Store is important to the success of Windows 8 and 8.1.
So speakers at Build will be highlighting the unique capabilities of Windows 8.1.
Microsoft and Guggenheimer declined to disclose what news would be coming out at Build, who the keynote speakers will be or even how many people are attending the conference.
Guggenheimer did characterize the event as a good opportunity to talk with existing .NET developers — those who’ve built applications using Microsoft’s .NET Framework programming model. Microsoft has been focusing in recent years more on other frameworks and Web technologies to build apps.
“There are a lot of developers out there — .NET developers,” Guggenheimer said. “How do the current products we have and the existing apps they built for existing products connect? How do they potentially bridge? And how do all those pieces move forward?”
Microsoft, in the past, had touted how having a common core among Windows Client, Windows Phone and Windows Embedded would make it easier to build applications that would run across all three platforms.
But “write once, run everywhere” doesn’t really work, Guggenheimer said, saying that speakers at Build would be talking about how there’s still work to be done to make apps run on each individual platform, even though having a common core should make it easier for developers to write apps across platforms.
That’s something Michael Crump, developer evangelist at Telerik, is very interested in hearing. Telerik, which sells tools to help software developers create applications, sells Microsoft tools and uses them in its own products.
Crump, along with developers he’s talked to, very much want to hear if there’s an easier way to build an application targeting both Windows and Windows Phone using shared code so developers only have to write it once.
That the Microsoft products share a core is a good — but only first — step, Crump said.
“In Apple’s world, you can create a universal application that works on both the iPad and iPhone,” he said. “That’s what Microsoft is coming closer toward.”
Developers would like to get more clarity and guidance from Microsoft on building business applications — everything from the steps required to build a business app that will make it into the Windows Store to how to get that app to stand out.
Like many consumers, he said, developers are looking forward to Windows 8.1 and the return of the Start button. (Instead of a button, Windows 8 has a Start screen filled with tiles that take the user to various applications. With Windows 8.1, a Windows logo button will appear anytime the cursor hovers in the bottom left corner and, in desktop mode, that logo remains visible in the taskbar. Clicking on the logo brings the user back to the Start screen.)
“Developers spend a lot of time in desktop mode,” Crump said, referring to the traditional desktop interface, which exists along with a tile-based interface on Windows 8.
“So they have missed the Start button. And they also miss the ability to boot straight to desktop” — an option that will be available in Windows 8.1.
Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, said he’s hoping to hear about “great changes to make it faster and easier to develop an app for the Windows ecosystem and why you would want to.”
“It’s been harder than developers would like or should be if you want the ecosystem to develop exponentially,” he said.
“It’s one skill set to write for Windows 7. It’s a different one to write for Windows 8 and Windows RT [the version of Windows 8 designed specifically for tablets using ARM processors].”
And, like Crump, he’d like to hear about how writing code for the different Microsoft platforms can be a more unified process.
Microsoft enjoys some efficiency by its common core across its different devices.
“But, right now, developers haven’t been able to share in that efficiency yet,” Miller said.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @janettu.