SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft hopes to lure more people to use its new Windows 10 software on a variety of computers and gadgets by making it easy to use many of the same apps they’re already using on Apple or Android phones.The company said at its annual Build conference Wednesday that it’s releasing new programming tools for software developers to rapidly adapt their Apple and Android apps to run on devices that use the new Windows 10 operating system coming out late this year.
Microsoft also announced a new name for the Web browser that it plans to offer with Windows 10. The company promises its new “Edge” browser is faster and more useful than the Internet Explorer that Microsoft has offered for the last 20 years.
The tech giant is making its case for Windows 10 before an army of software developers who may be crucial allies in its campaign to build enthusiasm among consumers for the next version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, coming later this year.
“Our goal is to make Windows 10 the most attractive development platform ever,” Microsoft executive Terry Myerson told an audience of several thousand programmers and app developers.
While Microsoft has already previewed some aspects of the new Windows, a parade of top executives is using the Build conference to demonstrate more software features and app-building tools, with an emphasis on mobile devices as well as PCs. Ultimately, they’re hoping to win over people who have turned to smartphones and tablets that run on rival operating systems from Google and Apple.
During the three-day conference, Microsoft is also expected to show off new Windows smartphones or other devices and reveal more details about such tech initiatives as the company’s new Spartan web browser; its Siri-like digital assistant known as Cortana; and the HoloLens, a futuristic “augmented reality” headset that projects three-dimensional images in a wearer’s field of vision.
But perhaps most importantly, this year’s conference is an opportunity for Microsoft to persuade an audience of more than 5,000 techies and independent programmers that it’s worth their time to create new apps and programs for Windows 10. Experts say Microsoft needs a rich variety of apps if it wants to appeal to people who are increasingly using mobile gadgets instead of personal computers.
“Getting developer buy-in is absolutely the crucial thing,” said J.P. Gownder, a tech industry analyst at Forrester Research. He said Microsoft has struggled with a “chicken-and-egg” problem, in which developers have been reluctant to build mobile apps for Windows because relatively few people use Windows phones and tablets.
Microsoft hopes it has solved that problem by designing Windows 10 so it’s easier for developers to build “universal” apps that work on a variety of Windows devices, from phones to PCs and other gadgets, Gownder said.
Currently, there are more than 1.4 million apps for Android phones and about the same for Apple devices, while there are only a few hundred thousand apps that work on Windows phones and tablets.
The company also has a big carrot to wave in front of those developers: Microsoft has already said it will release Windows 10 as a free upgrade to people who now have PCs or other gadgets running the previous two versions of Windows, provided they upgrade in the coming year. The offer could create a huge new audience of Windows 10 users in a relatively short time, Gownder said.
Myerson predicted there will be a billion devices using Windows 10 – from PCs to phones, tablets, gaming consoles and even holographic computers – within two to three years.
Microsoft has not said exactly when Windows 10 is coming, and some analysts are hoping the company will announce a release date at the conference, along with details about how it will distribute future upgrades.
CEO Satya Nadella and other executives have hinted they’d like to move away from the old notion of selling each new version of Windows as a separate product. Microsoft’s had early success in selling its Office productivity software on a subscription basis, in which customers pay an annual fee to use programs like Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Nadella is presiding over a major overhaul of a company that once dominated the tech industry, in the days when PCs were king. He has redesigned some of Microsoft’s most popular programs for mobile devices and invested in new “cloud-computing” services, in which businesses pay to use software that’s housed in Microsoft’s data centers.
Microsoft still relies heavily on selling traditional software for PCs and corporate computer systems. But its latest quarterly earnings report, issued last week, offered some signs that the decline in that business is slowing, while Microsoft’s cloud-computing business is growing rapidly.