At Build, Microsoft tried a different way to mobile developers' hearts

Here's how the company plans to succeed in a mobile-first world without a strong mobile OS

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft showed how it plans to stay relevant in the mobile computing market without a popular mobile OS.

Microsoft's plan isn't so much to rely on developers building applications for Windows 10 Mobile, but rather to create tools to help them build apps on any OS and hope this trickles down to help Microsoft as a whole.

One key move in this regard is releasing Xamarin's tools to developers for free. Xamarin, which Microsoft acquired a few weeks ago, lets developers create apps for iOS and Android using C#, a programming language that Microsoft originated.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead said in an interview that he thought Microsoft's Xamarin announcement would be huge news for enterprises, which would benefit immensely from the ability to write in one language and deploy across three different platforms.

What's not clear is whether Xamarin's tools will take off among consumer app developers, many of whom are already building native apps for iOS and Android written in the home languages of those platforms.

It's a departure from Microsoft's past mobile strategy, which was anchored in getting developers to build applications for smartphones running Windows. Instead, Microsoft is trying to position itself as a company that provides tools across platforms, Moorhead said.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa sees Microsoft trying to make its tools for developers work the way Office does for knowledge workers.

"That is, they want to be the number one tool chain for cross-platform development, mobile, cloud, everything," he said via email. "This is a tall order, but they are in fact executing on it and building a multi-platform ecosystem. Given their history with developers, you have to give them good odds on this."

The new Bot Framework, which helps developers make Web services that can converse with humans and take action on their behalf, works across mobile platforms and integrates with popular chat apps like Telegram, GroupMe, Skype and Slack -- only one of which comes from Microsoft.

That may seem like an odd move, but Microsoft's plan is to build tools for developers that will encourage them to consume its cloud services. The Bot Toolkit, part of the framework that includes tools for building bots, includes easy connections to Azure services, including the Language Understanding Intelligent Service, or LUIS, which is designed to help programs understand typed queries.

It's part of Microsoft's strategy with Azure overall, which allows developers to build cloud back-end systems for their applications even if those apps don't run on Windows.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also working to make its developer platform more interesting overall by letting developers build universal Windows apps that run on the HoloLens, Surface Hub and Xbox One as well as more traditional hardware.

That may turn out to have a trickle-down effect that leads developers to bring their apps to Windows 10 PCs and tablets, and even to beleaguered Windows 10 Mobile devices.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoft

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?