[This story is running in the print edition of The Seattle Times Oct. 31, 2012.]
Microsoft is spending the next few days wooing a group of people integral to the success of the company’s new Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platforms: developers.
Starting Tuesday, about 2,500 independent third-party creators of apps are on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, where the company has set up a huge tent for each morning’s Build conference keynote addresses.
Coming just a few days after the launches of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, this conference occurs at a critical time, given how radically different Windows 8 is from previous versions of Windows and how much Microsoft needs to build up the number of apps available to compete with Apple and Google.
It is especially important for Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 designed for power-conserving ARM-based devices — mainly tablets. That’s because Windows RT won’t be able to run legacy Windows apps — unlike the more fully powered Windows 8, which is able to run legacy apps.
In fact, several reviews of Surface, Microsoft’s first branded tablet which has come out in the Windows RT version only so far, have mentioned the lack of apps.
But the number has increased rapidly in recent days, currently numbering about 10,000 worldwide, according to the WinAppUpdate website. Big-name apps, such as Netflix, HuluPlus and Kindle, have been coming in.
And, Microsoft executives announced Tuesday morning that more will be arriving in the next few months: Twitter, Dropbox, ESPN and SAP among them.
The company also announced that the Windows Phone 8 software development kit was being released Tuesday.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in his Build keynote address, cited the potential of Windows 8 — and hence the apps running on that platform — to reach a large number of people.
In the first few days since launch, he said, Microsoft has sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades. (Ballmer had also said Monday at the Windows Phone 8 launch event that the company was seeing demand for Windows 8 exceeding that of demand for Windows 7 at the same time in its cycle.)
The biggest applause of the morning came when Ballmer announced that paying attendees at Build would each be receiving a Surface tablet, as well as 100GB of SkyDrive online storage, for free. (Later that morning, a Nokia executive announced each attendee would receive a Nokia Lumia 920 as well.)
Though there was no repeat this year of Ballmer’s famous “Developers! Developers! Developers! chant,” he did say this of the developers creating apps that will be coming to Windows 8: “We welcome all of these software developers and many, many, manymanymanymanymany more.”