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Internal memo reveals plans to spur Windows app development

Trying to catch up with archrivals Apple and Android, Microsoft launches an initiative to lure new developers for its Windows, cloud and mobile platforms.

IT pros who use Windows, Azure and Microsoft's mobile platforms may begin to see far more applications this year.

Microsoft is readying a concerted push to capture a wider set of developers over the next year who have yet to deliver applications for the company’s Windows, cloud and mobile platforms, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

Microsoft’s Developer Experience (DX) team, formerly known as Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE), will specifically reach out to four different types of developers: startups, traditional client/server developers, those developers transitioning to mobile and cloud platforms and developers who were born in the cloud/mobile world.

The new marching orders were spelled out in an internal email sent to the company’s worldwide sales and marketing organization by Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and head of the DX team late last month.

In the email, Guggenheimer said the company will develop a “broad programmatic approach” to engage a broader set of developers from higher touch programs through to self-service with the Microsoft Partner Network.

"We must be selective in how we look at ISVs to drive the greatest adoption of our cloud and mobile platforms," Guggenheimer wrote. "We will no longer define ISVs in the traditional sense.".

Accompanying the new initiative is a reorganization that will see a new ISV team created that unites account management, programs and go-to-market resources into a single team to be run by Kim Akers, currently a general manager at Microsoft, according to the email. Within that group another new team has been created that is responsible for bringing together all of the company’s ISV efforts across the DX organization, headed by Arnie Mondloch, currently the director of ISV audience marketing.

"Microsoft as a whole is trying to increase their operational efficiencies. They have to change their strategy somehow," said Wes Miller, vice president of research, at Directions on Microsoft, in Kirkland, Wash. "[Microsoft is] trying to make sure everything they do outbound reflect the one Windows, Office 365 and Azure story to be successful."

The new initiative is part of the company’s plan to gradually transform itself from a platform to a services company, Miller said.

"I expect three waves to happen," Miller said. "The first is going on inside with the organizational plans. The second piece is at Build, Ignite and partner conferences. Third, is the actual launch of whatever they decide to do with Windows 10 and along with it for Office 365 for the fall," Miller said.

One obstacle to Microsoft recruiting key but smaller mobile developers to create new applications is that many have limited budgets. These developers placed their bets some time ago on Apple Inc.’s iOS or Android-based devices where they anticipated most of the action in the market would be. It’s unlikely, no matter how much passionate evangelism and marketing incentives Microsoft offers through the new initiative, that many of these developers will put Windows Phone on their radar screens without seeing more greater user adoption.

"Microsoft needs to provide developer incentives to build on the Windows platform," said Rod Biagtan, director of Microsoft pre-sales at En Pointe Technologies, a systems integrator located in Gardena, Calif.

One advantage Microsoft has however, Biagtan adds, is that with the upcoming Windows 10 code base, developers can use just one code base to more easily create applications that work on a variety of Windows devices ranging from Windows Phone to the desktop. Only minor tweaks may be required to ensure the apps display well on all screen sizes.

"Microsoft is trying to get more business applications for workers to be productive on their platform and have companies pay for it," said Anthony Clendenen, Microsoft Architect for En Pointe.

Another obstacle Microsoft faces in the mobile market is that millions of existing Apple and Android users already own the applications on their phones, and will need to repurchase those same applications if their organization decides to switch to Windows phones.

It’s an uphill battle for Microsoft to gain Windows mobile device adoption but their ISV reorganization is designed to encourage more ISVs into their camp for Windows, Azure and Office 365 to get over this hump.

Indeed, Microsoft has been encouraging its partners to nudge developers to create more custom line of business applications to not only solve a corporate organization’s mobile needs, which will in turn, sell more Windows Phones and other services such as Azure and Office 365.

Some developers were heartened by the new initiative and reorganization, believing it could help developers work with the company more efficiently.

"In my dealings with [Microsoft], they are very matrixed. We’ll often join a call [that falls] across the spectrum of the organization," said Adine Deford, chief marketing officer with AppZero. "[Microsoft is] a big company and any time they can streamline how companies work with them is a big win," she said.

The DX team’s goal is to become a "trusted advisor" to strategically important global and local developers, according to the internal email. The hope is that by convincing developers to commit to creating applications on its key Windows and cloud platforms, it will further entice them to begin deploying infrastructure and other application platform products.

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