At the Microsoft MIX11 conference in Las Vegas, the company's developer relations leader Brandon Watson talks Windows Phone strategy with eWEEK.
LAS VEGAS -
Brandon Watson, who heads up developer relations for Microsoft's Windows Phone,
has something to prove.
Some might say
Watson, whose official title is director, developer experience, Windows Phone,
has a chip on his shoulder. But that would be a bit off because that connotes
harboring a grudge or hoping to provoke a fight. That's not his thing. Though
he's not one to back down from a fight, Watson's game is defense with a very
calculated offensive strategy-protect the budding Windows Phone franchise,
while steadily growing the developer base by offering new opportunities for
developers to distribute and market their applications, along with hot new
tools to create them.
Microsoft way. Coming from a dark horse position, late to the game, Microsoft
has a history of growing incrementally better with each new iteration. As
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said: "We just keep coming and coming and
coming and coming" after the competition. On the smartphone front, Microsoft
has a long way to go, but the offensive strategy that included a major
partnership with Nokia, and a bunch of new tools and features in the upcoming
"Mango" release of the Windows Phone 7 operating system, will help increase market
share and get the Microsoft platform in front of more developers.
So rather than
being "chippy," you might say Watson has a swagger. And not the newfangled
swagger that rappers and athletes who just learned the word talk about. Watson
brings a swagger handed down from folks who've earned it by learning through
trial and tribulation. He calls it passion and he cites older generations, from
his father to older executives at Microsoft, who've laid old-time sayings and
lessons on him about how to proceed in the face of adversity.
In a meeting
with eWEEK at Microsoft's
here, Watson was alternately engaging, combative,
enlightening and evasive, but never off point. And the point being that
Microsoft is in the smartphone game for the long haul and plans to have its
place in the market.
Coming from so
far behind, that kind of talk is risky. But Vegas is the place for risk takers.
And Watson is just that. He holds engineering and economics degrees from an Ivy
League school and an MBA from a prominent business school. He then spent some
years on Wall Street taking risks and making money, before he decided to make
real stuff. He also did a stint as an entrepreneur and launched a startup he
later sold. Along the way, he did two stints at Microsoft and is back with a
"You can't win
big unless you run the risk of losing big," he said.
sees the role of his group as enabling developers. "Our job is helping them get
started and making them rich and famous," he said.
Watson's team had something to talk about in the upcoming "Mango" version of
the Windows Phone operating system. He cited the Bing Search Extras and Live
Agents as two of the top new features that stand out in his view.
is cool technology to have apps solve a customer problem," he said. "It
leverages the Bing search engine."
In a blog post
on the new features, Matt Bencke
, general manager of the Windows Phone
business, said, "'Multitasking' meets Integrated Experiences with Live Agents:
Superior customer engagement with real-time interactions via Live Tiles, Push
Notifications, Deep Linking and Background Agents. Multitasking is also
enhanced to allow for fast applications switching, as well as background audio
and file transfer."
there are now more than 13,000 Windows Phone applications and it's growing, and
there are more than 1,500 new APIs for the platform that developers can use to
create new experiences. "There is an entire generation of developers who are
unencumbered by constraints of the last generation of the technology," Watson
said. "We just give them the tools and get out of the way."
new features developers at MIX11 raved about is the new support for Silverlight
and XNA in the same project. This means developers can create richer applications
with high-quality 3D graphics as seen on Xbox games.
"If you want
to have a Silverlight application with XNA performance or an XNA game with
Silverlight controls, you can have that," Watson said.
Watson knows to pay homage to Microsoft's rich developer history. "The company
was founded by developers and its first product was a language," he said. And
when the phone opportunity presented itself, we recognized the priority of
reaching out to developers. You don't get hired on my team unless you write
code for fun. Being able to make a personal connection with developers is
the Nokia opportunity is huge for his team in terms of its global reach and the
opportunity to extend the platform to developers worldwide. "Nokia makes 1.2
million cell phones a day," he said. "They're in countries we're not in yet.
This is a huge opportunity for our developer base."
Watson noted a bit of advice offered up by a former Microsoft executive, Robbie
Bach, who used to run Microsoft's devices unit as president of the Microsoft
Entertainment & Devices Division. Bach, a mentor to Watson, told him the
opportunity he faces with the Nokia deal is like the opportunity Bach faced
when he was the top marketing executive in charge of Microsoft Office during
the 1990s and battled against Corel and Lotus when they had 80 percent market
share to Microsoft's 20 percent. Microsoft came to own that space, and analysts
are projecting that Microsoft will become the No. 2 smartphone vendor by 2015.
me this is a unique point in time; it's a huge opportunity, so don't muck it
up," Watson said.