Is Microsoft winning or losing the war for developers?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | June 24, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Microsoft has always obsessed about developers. In this brave new Windows 8, mobile-focused world, how's Redmond doing?

Andrew Brust

Andrew Brust




Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Losing


Audience Favored: Losing (51%)

Closing Statements

The only reasonable strategy

Andrew Brust

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

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

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.

See also:

Momentum still gathering around mobile platforms

Jason Hiner

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.


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  • If devices eclipse personal computers, then Android is winning developers.

    Perhaps we have yet to see the influence of the Win8 derived compact version of Windows OS that is powering Windows Phones and more in the future (automotive Sync?) If this becomes the first true (non WinCE) embedded version of mainstream Windows, then perhaps it will open doors to Microsoft.
    Though on the con side, looking at what application side stuff you have to toss overboard when running this compact Win8, maybe you'd be better off starting fresh with Android!
    Sometimes its easier to built up an application that starts on a constrained platform rather than try to slim down an application that started out with the 'kitchen sink' approach.
    Reply 7 Votes I'm for Losing
    • right and wrong

      You are right, Android is winning developers. You are wrong because a lot of those developers are moving to Visual Studio. Visual Studio is actually enabling the rapid development of Android. Microsoft has always been a company that worked with and for developers. Windows itself is now down to about 10% of their profit. They have jumped into Hadoop. They have started producing more freeware and integrating with open source projects. Remember that they do have a strong *nix background there. Windows might not be winning but Microsoft is winning.
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
      • Don't see Microsoft winning anything

        We're dropping custom development for Windows completely this year. If it has to run on the PC, it is browser-based and hosted on our LAMP stack servers. But we are deploying over 200 Android and iOS apps this year, which is pretty significant for a company our size. And they replaced our MS rep *again* this year, because we spend less every year on licensing. We are refreshing the last of the XP machines this year to get everything up to Windows 7, but Win8 is not even a consideration.
        terry flores
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • lack of .NET LOB focus

    After putting focus in Silverlight rather than WPF and killing Silverlight in favour of HTML etc. it is hard to trust Microsoft's direction.

    Ridiculous sideloading rules out win8 platforms completely.

    They've succeeded in losing in the mobile space then disillusioning the .NET LOB developers.

    In a choice between win8 and Android, why would you start with win8?
    Reply 21 Votes I'm for Losing
    • Yep

      They have lost the plot with WPF/Silverlight, half-baked and unfinished offerings, while focusing on Windows 8 Metro UI which really, nobody cares about in the business space. And in the mobile space nobody in the right mind will start developing mobile applications on a platform with the smallest audience.
      Reply 5 Votes I'm Undecided
      • For Losing ?!

        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is for "Losing"... I am so surprised. Microsoft is loosing the plateform war but they still offer and support the bestdeveloppement technologies.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • spell checker, dammit!

          please, I agree with the substance of your comment, but you look like an illiterate. You quoted AKH in which he spelled losing correctly, while you went on to misspell it, along with platform and development. Perhaps some might respect the opinion of someone who can't be bothered or doesn't know how to spell, but I suspect most don't.
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • 100%

      Visual Studio is still excellent, Azure and the IIS web stack rocks... everything driven directly by the dev group is still top notch.

      But on the desktop, they've totally lost the plot. Their metro and HTML5 obsession has got them killing off perfectly good technologies, and deprecating .NET (by short-shrifting the Framework in Metro) is a monstrosity. The dev group needs to start throwing its weight around here, and overruling the out of touch Windows team on development tool decisions.

      I've listed myself as undecided because I love what they are doing on servers, but can't stand what they're doing for client development.
      Reply 6 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Very much in agreement, but...

        I too find the Visual Studio suite to be an exception piece of software. The .NET platform--while it has limitations just as other CLR-based platforms do--offers a strong set of tools for developers. Strange then that nearly all of the desktop suite of MS, save for Project, don't really seem to be .NET apps. There is a line we used to say at IBM: eat your own cooking. Otherwise, why should we do the same?

        However, there is simply just a mindshare issue. MS really is not seen as innovative anymore. Why? Bigger companies are generally not innovative. They are by nature more risk averse, protecting their revenues rather than shooting for new ones. They have entrenched bureaucratic structures that do not flex well with the twists that innovative, smaller companies need to take. So, to "innovate, they buy other people's companies to expand their portfolio, since they can spend money to avoid the risks of innovation. Sharepoint (at least key components), its search engine FAST, Dynamics, even PowerPoint, all were acquisitions. It was inevitable that MS would go through this phase. You've begun to see the same trend with Apple, saying that iOS is just not that innovative (no fanboy analysis here!).

        So, while they are IMHO clearly less competitive today than they were 10 years ago, they are still a very big gorilla in the market. They just need to manage risk vs. innovation more effectively to get the "cool kids" to take them up.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • Microsoft doesn't really buy, they build.

          "So, while they are IMHO clearly less competitive today than they were 10 years ago, they are still a very big gorilla in the market. They just need to manage risk vs. innovation more effectively to get the "cool kids" to take them up."

          Maybe on the platform side, especially in mobile. Mobile isn't everything. .NET has made major improvement on the web development side with .NET MVC and Web API. I think they day is coming when people just aren't going to want to download yet another app from the appstore. Mobile web is going to be the future of how users want to use their phones and web development with .NET is as good as any platform.
          Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided