Microsoft hones its plans to try to close the app gap

Microsoft is making more organizational changes aimed at getting more software developers to write for its platforms.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As 2014 comes to a close, Microsoft still hasn't made much of a dent in closing the app gap -- at least on the mobile front -- between Windows and other operating systems.

Plan A for getting more apps on Windows, and especially Windows mobile, devices remains moving to the Universal App model, which will enable developers to get closer to Microsoft's long-standing write once/run on any Windows promise.

Earlier this year, rumors began circulating that Microsoft had a Plan B, via which it would enable Android apps to run on its Windows and Windows Phone operating systems. From what sources are saying, this Plan B is still a possibility with Windows 10. (I'm not sure when and how Microsoft execs will decide whether or not to greenlight the Android-app plan.)

But there are still other ways Microsoft is hoping to narrow the app gap.

As of the end of September 2014, Microsoft had more than 527,000 "Metro-Style"/modern apps in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store combined. Of these, about 340,000 were Windows Phone apps, Microsoft officials told VentureBeat. Comparatively, there were 1.3 million apps in the Apple app store and 1.3 million apps in the Google Play Store. It's not only many users who are put off by the difference, but independent software vendors (ISVs), too, some of whom are unwilling to commit to supporting a platform with so few apps.

Microsoft's Developer Experience (DX) team, formerly known as Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE), is honing its strategy to attract more ISVs of all sizes and stripes.

To date, DPE/DX has been focused on broad evangelism and application acquisition. But new marching orders call for DX to build an "end-to-end lifecycle motion for ISVs," according to an internal e-mail message I've seen that was sent by Corporate Vice President and DX chief Steve Guggenheimer to the company's sales and marketing group a week-plus ago.

In addition to targeting traditional ISVs, Microsoft will make a dedicated push to recruit students, starups and "developers not currently supporting our platforms," Guggenheimer told the troops.

More from his email missive:

"DX has built a global ISV management capability over the past 18 months and now we will extend that capability to manage top ISVs in the field. In partnership with WPG (Worldwide Partner Group), we will also develop a broad programmatic approach to reach and engage a broader set of ISVs that scales from higher touch programs and offers through to self-service with MPN (Microsoft Partner Network). We must be selective in how we look at ISVs to drive the greatest adoption of our cloud and mobile platforms. We will no longer define ISVs in the traditional sense."

According to Guggenheimer's mail, DX will focus on reaching out to four distinct ISV types: start-ups, traditional client/server ISVs, ISVs transitioning to mobile/cloud and those "born in the cloud/mobile world."

The DX team's goals include becoming a "trusted advisor" to the most important global and local ISVs via account management and technical support; getting ISVs to build their apps on Microsoft's platforms, including Azure, Office 365 and WIndows; making ISVs successful on Microsoft's platforms via co-marketing, promotion and co-selling; and convincing ISVs to internally use Microsoft's infrastructure, productivity and app-platform products.

Some of the existing ISV outreach teams in the Enterprise Partner Group and Customer Service and Support (CSS) organizations are moving under DX, and DX is creating a new, single ISV team. That team will encompass app launch services, app performance, Microsoft Ventures and the existing ISV Alliance team. The Technical Evangelism and Dev team headed by John Shewchuk will be consolidating all ISV technical evangelism resources into a single team headed by Derek Burney. (Burney was until recently Corporate VP in charge of Lync, and before that, CEO of Corel.)

To better reach startups, Guggenheimer's organization is going to focus on engaging more with the top venture capital firms. The Microsoft Ventures Accelerators, now headed by Tzahi (Zack) Weisfeld -- after Rahul Sood's recent departure to work on his own startup -- will report into the new VC lead once that person is hired, the email says.

The DX team will continue to focus on working with IT pro and professional developers in the new year. And the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and Regional Director programs will move from CSS to the Influencer and Online Engines team in DX.

Microsoft moved the DX team to report to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who runs Sales, Marketing and Services, in August 2014.

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