In case you missed it, Microsoft’s huge Windows 8 launch was today. This is a Big Deal. Not just because it’s the latest update to what is still the world’s most widely used operating system, but because it could double as Microsoft’s biggest and best chance to make a real imprint on the ever-growing mobile marketplace.
First, let’s back up: Microsoft’s new desktop computer operating system is just one piece of the puzzle. The company is also putting out new operating systems (and devices) that focus on the tablet and smartphone markets. And while these may be tough markets for Microsoft to crack (it won’t be easy to convince iOS or Android users to jump ship), Microsoft has an ace up its sleeve: the company’s new desktop, tablet, and phone operating systems may run on entirely different classes of devices, but the code that makes up their guts is very, very similar. They also share a common UI called “Metro”.
In other words: If you’re a developer who wants to make a program for Windows, it should be very easy to adapt it to also run on a Windows tablet or phone. In some situations, this could be as easy as adapting the aspect ratio to fit a different-sized screen. It also creates an interesting proposition for developers to create applications that depend on multiple devices for increased functionality.
Operating systems—particularly mobile operating systems—live and die by their apps. One of the reasons Apple’s iOS platform has been so successful is its ability to attract both big, must-have apps (the Twitters and Foursquares of the world), as well as smaller programs that turn out to be surprise hits (Instagram, before Facebook scooped it up, and before it was available on Android). It’s going to be an uphill battle for Microsoft to convince developers that its mobile ecosystem is worth their time. But by tying it closely with the already proven Windows PC world, they may have made their jobs a little bit easier.