We are entering developer season, which will start in full force with Microsoft’s Build developer conference this week. Google’s I/O developer summit will start a few weeks after that and we conclude with Apple’s WWDC event in early June. There is one over-arching theme I will be very curious to see how each company addresses.
We are in the midst of a transition in our industry. We have deeply entrenched and fundamental computing platforms today with PCs and smartphones. These are not going away for a long time but we are at the end of the S-curve for both of these platforms. Each company must still address new tools to encourage the evolution of these legacy platforms. This means we will still see PCs and the cloud be a key part of Microsoft’s message this week. These platforms are where the money is today and developers still need better tools and technologies to continue to create for legacy platforms. Similarly, Google and Apple will address the PC (including tablets) and smartphone in their developer events. Legacy platforms are still where the money is and that will be reflected.
However, what I’m interested in is how these companies will address the future platforms which will be around artificial intelligence, augmented/mixed reality, or a mix of both. I would expect new tools around AI, voice-based smart assistants and, hopefully, forms of AI/mixed reality along with new developer tools to start experimenting more and building upon these potential future platforms. In both the cases of AI and AR, we are not really sure how they evolve or where they will go but, as with all platforms, it will be up to the developer to move it forward and take us into the future with their creativity and ingenuity. Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all in position to begin to make their plays for the future platform and developers sit at the center of this competition.
What to Watch for with Microsoft this Week
Looking beyond the Windows platform, I am looking for a few things from Microsoft this week which can strengthen their position in the cloud and start to attract developers for future platforms.
- Windows Cloud: After Amazon, Microsoft’s cloud remains the second biggest player offering a breadth of options for the private and shared cloud. In this area, I am watching for them to dive into how they are empowering developers with machine learning and AI technologies as a part of the full suite of Microsoft Cloud developer tools. Machine learning is a critical part of this upcoming cycle we are heading toward and companies are looking for every competitive advantage they can when it comes to training their networks. Hopefully, Microsoft makes moves here that help keep their cloud platform competitive in the machine learning/AI era.
- New Cortana Tools: Cortana remains the front end for Microsoft’s AI play and I’m hoping they open up more access to Cortana for developers to integrate their apps through a combination of backend cloud services and front-end integration to their software. I’d love to see Microsoft go as far and wide as possible with Cortana integration.
- Mixed Reality: Microsoft’s play for Augmented Reality is called Mixed Reality and is showcased in their HoloLens solution. Microsoft has built a holographic shell around Windows that lets developers start to make Windows Holographic apps that can work with a PC with low-end resources like a mid-level processor all the way up to a powerful gaming desktop. Here, the tools Microsoft releases to continue to attract developers to make Windows Holographic apps is critical for their future. But so is getting more hardware partners to make headsets that take advantage of Windows Holographic apps. Without a path to a larger hardware installed base, it will be harder for Microsoft to attract developers. So, with regard to Mixed Reality and Microsoft, all eyes are on the software tools and the hardware ecosystem.
These are a few of the things I”m looking for that are more future forward from Microsoft this week. Of course, the big question will be how much they talk about the legacy platforms vs. the future, given the legacy ones are the most valuable at the moment. However, all of these companies, during developer season, need to be well positioned for the platform shift when it happens so they don’t risk missing out.