Microsoft Developer Dream Team Targets Next-Generation Developers

Microsoft is going after next-generation developers to use its expanded development platform to build new next-gen apps.

It’s really nothing new that Microsoft is once again reaching out to developers with a vengeance and is jazzed about its sharpened focus on new application patterns and the Microsoft development platform. What perhaps is new is the overall excitement of and around the team tasked with getting out the word.

Channeling his inner LL Cool J, John Shewchuk, a Microsoft Technical Fellow heading up the technical evangelism and development team, essentially told eWEEK: “Don’t call it a comeback. We’ve been here for years!” Shewchuk took exception to his elite group being viewed as a “new” team, citing that the Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team is not new in the least. In fact, the group has been around since 2001. Shewchuk himself has been at Microsoft for nearly 20 years and is the CTO for the Microsoft Developer Platform.

However, in breaking the story of Shewchuk’s team’s new focus, Mary Jo Foley at “All About Microsoft” called it a new "deep tech" team inside the DPE unit “charged with working with top developers outside the company to build next-generation applications on top of the Microsoft platform.”

Back in the day, the Microsoft platform was primarily Windows and the company ruled its developer environment, but as Microsoft has moved from being just a software vendor to a devices and services vendor, the Microsoft platform has become much more than just Windows to include Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Bing, Xbox and more, Shewchuk said. And his group is tasked with helping developers “stitch apps together” using elements of developer goodness from across Microsoft’s varied products.

“Our goal is to work with the community of developers, designers and IT pros in startups, ISVs and enterprise shops to take advantage of our technology and new application patterns, multi-device support and things like support for Linux-based systems in Azure. And there is so much more,” Shewchuk said. “I don’t think people know how to access all that stuff on their own. The Microsoft developer platform has really become much broader as a result of bets Microsoft has made over the last few years.”

Indeed, Foley notes: "The Microsoft toolbox from which devs can choose to mix and match includes many technologies that didn't exist a decade, or even just a few years, ago. They include everything from Windows Azure technologies, to Bing programming interfaces and datasets, to the WinRT framework underlying Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Microsoft's next Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phones, Surfaces, Perceptive Pixel multitouch displays are among the targets for these technologies."

Asked when there will be a single development platform for everything Microsoft, Shewchuk argued that there already is. He compared the process of building a Windows app and a Windows Phone app just a few years ago to now, saying the difference is like night and day, with the programming model today being much the same on the phone as on the desktop. “We’re bringing high commonality with what we’re doing in the cloud, on the phone, the desktop and beyond. The thing to remember about the platform is it’s huge.”

“Currently, there is a great deal of complexity in dealing with the various Microsoft platforms,” said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. “Differences between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are not helpful, and a unique architecture with live-tile interaction means that developers have to do special work for essentially targeting a small sliver of the mobile device market. What this effort is likely to do is help enterprises, who mostly have established Microsoft development shops over the last decade, leverage that investment.”

Meanwhile, in a post describing his new role, Shewchuk said, “It’s a real privilege to be at the center of so much action and to engage so directly with the developer community.” He also explained that his team is set on helping developers “create amazing next generation apps, build the frameworks that make all this easier, and share our experiences with the community.”