In the AI Era, Microsoft Will Need Those Who Turned Their Backs on It in the Mobile Era: Developers

Poor developer support doomed the Windows Phone. Microsoft can’t afford to let the same thing happen again with AI.

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Microsoft is once again trying to attract Windows developers so that they'll transform their apps with AI. However, it faces a challenge as difficult as the one it failed at a decade ago, when it unsuccessfully tried to convince them to transfer their apps to the Windows Phone.

Without a strong app ecosystem, Microsoft’s dream to lead the AI revolution on PCs could vanish. This is what happened with phones, although native apps aren’t as crucial on PCs as they are on mobile.

Why this matters. Microsoft still needs widespread adoption of its AI tools for Windows by developers if it wants to solidify its position and differentiate itself from Apple and macOS.

Without apps that make the most out of the AI capabilities of the new Copilot+ PCs, the value of Windows will decrease, and users will have less reason to purchase these laptops.

Déjà vu. In the past decade, Microsoft attempted to attract developers with the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) for smartphone, computer, and Xbox apps. However, this attempt was a failure.

The Windows Phone faced challenges due to the absence of key apps available on iOS and Android. Additionally, the apps that were available on Windows Phone were often of lower quality. As a result, Nokia’s Windows Phone didn’t attract enough users. And without a strong user base, developers didn’t find creating apps for the platform worthwhile.

  • In 2017, Microsoft discontinued its smartphone efforts and acknowledged the loss of billions of dollars from the venture. Despite the investment, the Windows Phone never achieved more than a 3% global market share.
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Microsoft attempts to woo developers with AI. Microsoft is providing developers with a set of AI tools to enhance their Windows apps without having to start from scratch. These tools include OCR (Optical Character Recognition), automatic translation, voice transcription, visual effects, and Windows’ new Recall feature, along with the ability to utilize the new NPU to speed up AI processing.

Although it’s still early, only a few third-party developers have demonstrated apps that have been enhanced by these new features. According to The Verge, only a handful of demonstrations have showcased Copilot+ PCs’ NPU use for AI tasks, such as in Djay and DaVinci Resolve. As of now, there are no major concrete plans.

The challenge. To achieve success, Windows AI needs to be widely adopted by developers as quickly as possible. If Microsoft faces slow adoption as it did with UWP, developers may not find it worth the effort to adapt their apps.

Despite the failure of Windows Phone, Microsoft has yet to demonstrate its ability to create a thriving ecosystem around new technology.

Microsoft is known for its desktop operating systems, office suite, and cloud services in partnership with OpenAI. However, building a successful app ecosystem is a different challenge.

While the current tools may present a more manageable challenge than the Windows Phone, Microsoft can’t afford another failure after the demise of its mobile venture. With Satya Nadella now leading the company, the stakes are high.

Image | Microsoft | Xataka

Related | Microsoft Already Knows How to Conquer the AI World: Money. It’s Spent Nearly $30 Billion (So Far)

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