Best Argument: Losing
Audience Favored: Losing (51%)
The only reasonable strategy
Microsoft faces existential threats on multiple fronts. iOS and Android threaten Windows and the PC market in general. Open source NoSQL databases threaten SQL Server. Copycat, “good enough” productivity suites threaten Office. And mobile devices in general threaten game consoles, most definitely including Xbox.
Microsoft’s response -- whether you call it “Devices and Services” or “Three Screens and the Cloud” -- is about providing a consistent platform that works in multiple scenarios: Cloud and on-premises; PC, tablet, phone and TV; Web and native; enterprise and consumer.
Some would argue this hybrid approach yields too many compromises. My take is that it makes training and development efforts approachable, even in a world of sprawling, heterogeneous, indeterminate devices. My belief is this is the only reasonable strategy, and that’s the biggest reason why I see Microsoft is winning the battle for developers.
As Microsoft addresses developers at its Build conference this week, and readies a reorg for its new fiscal year that starts next week, we’ll know better if it’s continuing on the right path, or if it’s losing its nerve.
Lower hanging fruit
The key to having a successful platform is having a wide selection of apps in order to attract users. But in order to get those apps you need to get developers interested in the platform, and to do that the platform needs a broad user base.
It's a catch-22, and it is a problem facing any new platform trying to gain traction, and it is a problem that Microsoft is having with its Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone platforms. Developers are following the money, and -- right now -- the Apple App Store and Google Play store. These stores attract tens of millions of eyeballs, and millions more are being added monthly.
Microsoft, on the other hand, is having to work hard because of the huge head start that Apple and Google has, and is having to build new platforms from the ground up at a time when there are plenty of mature platforms for customers to choose.
Right now, Microsoft is losing the war for developers because there's lower hanging fruit that those developers can go after.
Momentum still gathering around mobile platforms
Andrew and Adrian did a great job of summing up Microsoft's assets, opportunities, and the challenges it faces in winning over developers to its platforms. The strong arguments from both of them and the fact that the public vote is almost dead-even shows what a difficult topic this is to unravel.
Ultimately, a lot of Microsoft's fate will hinge on which way the market goes. If it becomes a game that's more about native apps driven by mobile-centric platforms, then Microsoft is destined to lose more and more developers to Apple and Google. However, if the game shifts more toward a Web and cloud-based app platform, then Microsoft is likely to thrive with Azure as its centerpiece since the company has done an excellent job of making that a multiplatform powerhouse.
Right now, the momentum is still gathering around the mobile platforms, so we have to give Adrian the win. But, it's possible that there could eventually be a backlash and a move toward Web and cloud apps and Microsoft would be well-positioned to become a developer stronghold in that case.