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Steven Guggenheimer Keynote Shines Light on Modern Apps

Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist of Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, took the stage at Visual Studio Live! 2013 Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon to outline Microsoft's vision for the emerging class of modern apps in a device- and services-centric world.

Guggenheimer noted the challenge posed by the rapid explosion in the number of deployed devices, from 500 million worldwide in 2003 to an estimated 50 billion by 2020. However, he called the effort to develop for these devices "just one half of the conversation." The flip side, he said, is enabling services to constantly interact with these devices and with other services.

Throughout the talk Guggenheimer kept coming back to the concept of symmetry -- be it in enabling diverse client form factors or supporting a range of client-server and cloud-based software models.

Guggenheimer made a point to distinguish Microsoft's device strategy across phone, tablet and computer from that at Apple or Google. He noted that both competitors treat the phone and tablet the same, despite the large differences in screen size, while the computer is addressed with an entirely distinct platform. Microsoft, Guggenheimer said, has worked to enable symmetry across all three form factors, treating the tablet and PC more as equals.

"Nothing is perfect here today. But we've tried our hardest to try to get that symmetry," Guggenheimer said. "We've picked some different design points intentionally, because we think bigger screens align more than smaller screens."

Microsoft Fellow John Shewchuk came up on stage to demonstrate how Microsoft supports development across all three form factors. The demonstration showed how developers can code similar functionality for the Web with HTML5/JavaScript, natively with C++, or in a managed framework with C#. At one point, Shewchuk showed a C++-based, DirectX-enabled game based on the Unity 3D graphics engine, running both on his Windows client PC and a Windows Phone.

"It's the same game running through that engine," Shewchuk said.

Guggenheimer also talked extensively about the cloud and Windows Azure, noting that for many greenfield development efforts, the "starting point now is cloud first. In the past it was on-premises first and cloud second. That was just where we were in our history then."

Shewchuk returned to stage to show how Windows Azure Mobile Services can be used to transform a traditional VB-style application into a cloud-enabled connected application targeting Windows Phone, Windows Store, Android or iOS. Shewchuk also showed how a real-time Web mapping application can interact with Google Maps on an Android smartphone.

Even as Microsoft makes gains enabling cloud- and services-centric app development tuned for diverse client targets, a core economic challenge remains. Guggenheimer noted that companies are struggling to monetize apps sold through store environments like Windows Store. Store-based apps account for $20 billion in annual revenue, compared to more than $300 billion for line-of-business applications.

The solution, said Guggenheimer, is to maximize exposure by being "available in as many countries, as many languages, and as many currencies as possible." He also noted that Microsoft's fee structure enables apps that have more than $25,000 in sales to move to a more advantageous fee level. After $25,000, developers keep 80 percent of revenues for apps sold on the Windows Store, up from 70 percent.

Guggenheimer closed by reminding attendees about the upcoming Microsoft BUILD conference, scheduled to take place June 26-28 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. BUILD is Microsoft's flagship developer conference and has been used in the past as a platform to launch major dev-oriented products and initiatives.

For more on BUILD 2013 see our interview at Visual Studio Live! with Guggenheimer here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/27/2013