Microsoft finalized its acquisition of Nokia's mobile phone and software businesses today. The deal, valued at $7.2 billion, was first announced last September and significantly alters the mobile landscape. Rather than simply develop the Windows Phone operating system, Microsoft will now also make smartphones with the OS on board. It changes the Apple-Google-Microsoft dynamic in a new and interesting way that will bring new opportunities for developers.
Microsoft recently hosted its Build developer conference. It debuted Windows Phone 8.1 at the event, which includes tons of new user-facing features and important ones for developers. Perhaps the most significant change is the ability to create universal apps that can run on Windows Phone 8.1, Windows RT, and Windows 8.1. Developers can create a single app in Visual Studio and then publish it to all three platforms with the push of a button. Microsoft says porting existing apps between the three platforms will be a breeze since they already share 90% of the base code.
Microsoft already released a preview of Windows Phone 8.1 to developers along with a beta SDK. In other words, developers have the tools they need to target the entire Windows universe already at their disposal. The expectation is now that Microsoft makes phones, too, the integration between the OSes and apps will be tighter than ever.
Nokia itself published a vast number of SDKs for its apps, and that won't change. The SDKs will simply come from Microsoft directly instead of Nokia. For example, Nokia released a new SDK for its imaging tools earlier this month. The Imaging SDK allows developers to bake the Nokia camera and its features into their own apps. Importantly, Nokia exec Chris Weber, who headed the company's developer efforts, transitioned to Microsoft as part of the deal. That means anyone who already works with Weber will still have a familiar face at Microsoft.
Nokia wasn't all Windows Phone, however. It has two other mobile platforms that developers can target: Asha and Nokia X. Asha is Nokia's - er, Microsoft's feature phone platform. It is based on Java and MIcrosoft has extensive SDKs available for creating apps that can run on Asha devices. The Nokia X platform is a different take on Android. Nokia forked Google's Android platform earlier this year. It stripped out all the Google services and substituted them with its own (based on Microsoft's services). The Nokia X team contents that 75% of existing Android apps can run on Nokia X devices with no adjustments. The 25% of apps that need to be altered can be done so in mere hours.
The bottom line here is that the new Microsoft offers more opportunity than the old one. With three platforms ripe for app developers to target, there's never been a better time to work with Microsoft and its mobile devices.