Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has said it plans to have Windows 10 on a billion devices in the coming years.
To make that happen, the company will have to go beyond its traditional market of desktops and laptops, and even past tablets and phones. For Windows 10 to become the behemoth the company expects it to be, it will need to become embedded into Internet of Things devices.
To make that happen, Microsoft has released Windows 10 IoT Core, a slimmed-down version of its operating system designed to operate on “smart” devices. It’s a just-enough system that allows developers of connected products of all types to have an operating system at the core of their products.
It’s only a step on the road to one billion Win10 devices, but it’s a very important one.
What is Microsoft doing?
In order for the company to see its new OS reach the numbers it’s shooting for, it needs the development community to build consumer products that use Windows 10. The launch of Core is an attempt to give those developers the OS they need to provide the “smart” part of their smart devices.
The company explained how the stripped-down operating system will work in a blog post:
Windows 10 IoT Core is a new edition for Windows targeted toward small, embedded devices that may or may not have screens. For devices with screens, Windows 10 IoT Core does not have a Windows shell experience; instead you can write a Universal Windows app that is the interface and “personality” for your device. IoT core [is] designed to have a low barrier to entry and make it easy to build professional grade devices. It’s designed to work with a variety of open source languages and works well with Visual Studio.
Basically, Microsoft has done some of the heavy lifting for developers. That’s important, because Windows 10 is not the only IoT-compatible operating system — you can use Linux or Android, among others — but it may well be the easiest to use.
Developers are key
When people complain that there aren’t enough apps for Windows Phone, it’s because developers have chosen to not make them. That’s the case because the audience to sell the app to is not as big as it is on other phone platforms. With its IoT efforts, Microsoft needs developers to create products that use the OS. If enough of them do, it could become one of the standards for the space, giving the company a stronger business going forward that does not rely as heavily on PC sales.
For that to happen, though, developers need to buy in, and Microsoft has been aggressively courting them since Win10 was announced. Those efforts were reiterated in the Windows 10 Core blog post.
The developer experience has been a high priority for our team as we’ve built Windows 10 IoT Core, and we hope this shows when constructing apps for this platform. Our philosophy is that we want to make it easy for developers to use the languages and frameworks they prefer to build IoT device apps. This means full support for the standard UWP languages like C++, C#, JS and VB, but it also means bringing support — including full tools, debugging, and project systems — for Node.js and Python.
If you’re not a coder, not all of those words make sense, but if you are, you’d know that Microsoft is practically on its hands and knees trying to be accommodating.
Is this a good idea?
Microsoft is right to target the Internet of Things, and it’s smart to make it very easy for developers to use its products. In a broad sense, the development world has had a certain level of mistrust when it comes to the company since Windows has always been a closed-off world.
Under Satya Nadella, that reputation has been changing, and the company has been opening some previously closed doors. Windows 10 IoT Core has a chance to completely change that reputation. Microsoft has thrown open the doors, kicked in the windows, and is generally inviting everyone to play with its OS.
There’s no guarantee it will work, as the IoT is in its very early stages, but putting extensive resources behind the effort can only help.
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