Microsoft's Build powwow: Our wish list

Here are six insights we'd like to get out of Microsoft's Build Developer Conference starting April 2.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft kicks off its Build Developer Conference April 2 and is expected to publish the specific schedule soon to put some meat on its broad agenda. While the company is deliberating we thought it's worth building a wish list of what we'd like to see from Microsoft as it rallies its developer base.

First, it's unclear whether CEO Satya Nadella will appear at Build or do more than a guest appearance. The No. 1 item on our wish list is to give Nadella the spotlight, preach to the base, rally developers and perhaps give a strategy talk.

That wish may be a bit of a stretch. Nadella is working through the organization, taking input and pondering the company's existing strategy as well as tweaks. Just because Nadella is an insider doesn't mean he can magically hit the ground running.

build screen

What Nadella can do is give his thoughts on what One Microsoft means to him. He can talk about the services role, highlight the thinking behind Windows 8.1 Update 1, which is supposed to make the operating system better for keyboard and mouse interfaces, and be cheerleader in chief for the developer base. Overall, folks want to get a feel for Nadella's leadership chops. Build will be a success if the only thing Microsoft does is allow Nadella to shine.

No. 2 on our wish list is a dose of humility and maybe even an apology about Windows 8. Microsoft clearly outran its user base and I'll give the company props for being ballsy and taking its big shot on touch interfaces. Now Windows 8 deserves some of the hits it receives, but Microsoft's message needs to be that we goofed, we didn't take your input and we'll iterate our way out of this pickle. Cue the Windows 9 references.

No. 3 on the wish list is to clarify the Windows 8 interface and what it means going forward. There's a view that Microsoft will in some fashion jettison the interface formerly known as Metro. It's a safe bet that the tiles approach is here to stay, but Microsoft does need to make it easier on multiple screens. Simply put, the Windows interface needs to read and react much better.

No. 4 for us would be for Windows Chief Terry Myerson to outline the development bridges between the Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox ecosystems. The general theme is that these OSes will be connected and cohesive. The reality is Microsoft will support three operating systems. However, Microsoft needs to leverage its developer base to get Windows Phone some love.

No. 5 would be a coherent statement on Nokia's Android foray. Was that effort total BS or is there some role for Android in the Microsoft developer mix? Unless the deal closes before Build, Microsoft legally can't say much. 

And the final thing on our wish list is some mobile enterprise color. Nadella is an enterprise guy. He's a cloud guy. Microsoft is dominant in the enterprise. In fact, Microsoft's enterprise business carries the team and gives the company the cash to spend to alleviate its Apple (the Nokia acquisition?!? Really?!?) and Google envy. Windows Phone could get more enterprise mojo and fill in the corporate gaps left by BlackBerry. Instead, Microsoft has allowed companies like Samsung step into the void.

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