Ballmer Touts Developer Opportunities With 'Re-Imagined' Windows

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in a surprise appearance Wednesday at the company's Build developer conference, touted the company's efforts to "re-imagine" its Windows franchise to make it run on a wide range of hardware devices, support cloud services and deliver new "application scenarios."

Ballmer fired up the several thousand developers attending the morning's keynote session Wednesday morning, saying, "There's never been a better time to have software development as a core skill."

Steve Ballmer at Microsoft Build

"It's the day and age of the developer," he said to cheers, "and it's the day and age of the Windows developer. Developers, developers, developers."

Ballmer was not listed on the agenda for the Wednesday keynote, led by Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, which focused on new releases of the company's Visual Studio development toolset, a new development kit for the Azure cloud platform, and a developer preview of the next release of Windows Server.

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Tuesday Microsoft began offering a developer preview of Windows 8, the next release of the operating system that's designed to run on both desktop and tablet computers. Ballmer said there already have been 500,000 downloads of the software, a pace he called "electric."

Ballmer said Windows remains very much at the center of Microsoft's efforts to move into cloud computing, ("We're still very early in the shift to cloud services," he said), and to expand Microsoft software to x86- and ARM-based tablets and smartphones. "It's about broadly re-imagining Windows, taking it in new and unexpected ways," he said, pacing the stage at the Anaheim, Calif., convention center.

The CEO touted what he said is the momentum behind the Windows Phone mobile operating system, calling it "gratifying," and highlighted the ability of next-generation Windows applications to run across a range of server, desktop and mobile platforms. He also noted that by the time Windows 8 is generally available, expected some time next year, there will be some 500 million PCs ripe for upgrading to the new OS.

"This all adds up to unprecedented opportunities for developers," Ballmer said. "We want you to be able to sell applications, and services, and content and data. We want you to be able to make money off of the work you have done."