Will Windows 10 Win Developers Back To Microsoft?


In September 2000, Microsoft was celebrating its 25th anniversary. During an incident at one of the celebratory events that surely would have gone viral in minutes had social and smartphones been available at the time (but was fortunately caught on video nonetheless), then-president and CEO Steve Ballmer stomped and clapped across the stage, working himself  (and the crowd) up into a sweaty frenzy as he repeatedly chanted one word: “Developers.”

Developers were clearly important to the company in 2000, when .NET was so new that a press release announcing the 25th anniversary festivities had to render the name phonetically (“dot-net”). Flash forward 15 years to today, and few would argue that developers are even more important to Microsoft. But, the thing is, they are more important to every company—tech and non-tech alike—which means there is a lot of competition for developer mindshare.  This is especially so as more and more organizations look to unlock the transformative power of APIs, which, without developers, are of limited strategic value.

Through its storied history--filled with high-highs and low-lows--Microsoft has lost some of that mindshare to the likes of tech giants like Apple and Google, but also to companies that it never had to consider as competitors before.

Has Microsoft lost its developer mojo, and can the company get it back?

Those Were the Days

In 2000, Microsoft was a king of the hill, pooh-poohing those that dared to compete in the same space—or in spaces that Microsoft eventually decided really were important. Microsoft technologies still dominate when it comes to corporate computing, but competitors big and small have chipped away at its armor even in that vaunted space. And, when it comes to consumer/mobile computing, some would say that Microsoft has been left in Google’s and Apple’s dust.

Why? Developers.

Actually, developers and end users. 

Another big difference between today’s computing environment and 2000’s is that the world has gone digital. Computing doesn’t stop at office walls anymore. In a trend often referred to as “the consumerization of IT,” computing is 24/7, and it’s woven into every aspect of a user’s life. Consumers (personally and professionally) now call the shots, as their expectations for what technology can and should do grow.  Organizations can either exceed those expectations or expect to be quickly jilted for one that can.

Who builds those enterprise applications? Developers.

Further, and, perhaps more importantly, those applications run on devices, and users may have no stronger loyalty than they do to their mobile gadgets and the apps that run on them.

Who builds those mobile apps? Developers. 

Which platforms will developers build their apps for? The most widely used. For example, on the mobile front, iOS has a rabid fan base; so, too, does Android. Microsoft’s Windows Phone? Not so much. (See IDC stats in the figure, below.)


In fact, Microsoft recently announced plans to cut 7,800 jobs and streamline its mobile phone business. As reported by ProgrammableWeb’s Eric Zeman, “Microsoft has more or less admitted defeat in the smartphone space,” at least as far as hardware is concerned. Microsoft remains committed to the Windows Phone operating system, but, judging from IDC’s numbers, it doesn’t seem like users share in the company’s enthusiasm. 

And therein lies Microsoft’s current dilemma. Developer mojo has been in short supply for Microsoft for several years—largely through its own doing. (Some would say undoing—Vanity Fair calls it Microsoft’s “lost decade.”).

Be sure to read the next Developer Relations article: How Ideas Become Products That Engage Developers


Comments (4)


.NET has always been the richest desktop framework when it comes to developing for Windows, and now perhaps Linux and Mac since it is open sourcing with the help of the Mono Foundation.

What strikes me as odd is that while mobile devices may be more convenient, it is more psychologically and mentally damaging than a standalone computer. The reason I say this is because there are less radiowaves being transmitted when using WiFi versus mobile networks, which rely on radiowaves to transmit data.

Furthermore, I find it ironic that people complain their privacy is being intruded, and yet they still use computers, voluntarily giving away information about their personal lives onto Facebook, Google and Twitter, and they say these companies are the ones to blame. They only have themselves to blame, frankly, and if they truly care about their privacy, they wouldn't be using these services in the first place.

Despite that off-topic rant, I wouldn't go as far to say that Microsoft is losing developers. PC developers such as Blizzard still primarily make games for PC and Mac, and Linux barely gets a say, at least until Valve and AMD come out with their drivers. Microsoft will continue to dominate the games market, with Xbox One garnering more recognition than PS4 due to some mistakes on Sony's E3 Conference and ridiculous timed exclusives, and if that's not enough to convince you, mobile markets are over-saturated and actually may cause entry-level developers to turn away, at least until a point where they are recognised. Not to mention the awful curation of the iOS App Store which will never have decent promotion systems.

Desktop PCs have the convenience of being upgradable, can you, as a consumer, do that with a mobile device? For gamers, Microsoft will always dominate at least until a point where drivers can compete with DirectX. Right now, no such competition exists in this space as of yet.


One obstacle Microsoft faced that was not mentioned in this article:  For years now, people have chosen something just because it was not Microsoft or that it would hurt Microsoft all because of the bad press it received.  The OpenSource movement, for example, was a direct attack on Microsoft and on making money from software in general.  Besides hurting Microsoft, the OpenSource movement has cut the value (and quality - after all, who in their right mind would pay a software engineer to maintain something given away for free?) of software and driven money-making sources elsewhere (e.g. hardware, advertisements).  That, of course, greatly benefited Apple (hardware) and Google (ads).