Exclusive Interview with Michael Angiulo at the Surface Pro Launch Event

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MichaelAnguiloThis weekend marked the launch of Microsoft's long awaited Surface Pro device.  Thanks to a blizzard named Nemo, the big launch event that was scheduled for New York had to be moved to the sunnier and warmer climates of Las Vegas, which gave me a chance to speak to Michael Angiulo, Corporate Vice President, Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem about what the Surface devices mean for the Windows 8 ecosystem and Microsoft based developers.  He also gave a preview of the convergence between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 environments.

SurfaceLaunchThe launch event was held at the Fashion Show Mall on the Las Vegas Strip and started with a dance show featuring some of the dancers from the new Surface Pro commercials along with a human beat box providing the soundtrack.  Panos Panay led the show and gave away free Surface Pros to several of the attendees. They also previewed the new Surface Pro commercial scheduled to air during the Grammy Awards.  After the runway event the representatives moved to the Holiday Popup Microsoft Store where a DJ played music while the crowds of people waited in line for their chance to check out the device.  At one point the crowd was joined by local celebrity Flavor Flav as he and his son came to check out the device for themselves.

Amid the hustle and bustle of shoppers, I got a chance to ask Michael Angiulo about the outlook for Windows 8 apps and the Microsoft developer ecosystem.  The first question I asked was how he felt the success or failure of the Surface line of devices would affect the overall Windows 8 app ecosystem.  He responded by describing the Surface device as an usual device meant to fit a specific niche.
"It doesn't look like just a regular laptop, its a different kind of idea that's designed around all of the modes of input that Windows 8 was built for. It's really a specialty kind of PC and its really complimentary to the PC."

He also restated the sentiments originated by Microsoft Windows CFO/CMO Tami Reller in that more than 60 million licenses have been sold in the same time frame as it took to sell 60 million Windows 7 licenses, putting it on par with one of the most popular versions of Windows ever released.
"I don't think it's the Surface Pro is going to drive developers, I think its the total opportunity for developers that will drive development."

When asked about the developer uptake on the Windows 8 ecosystem, Mr. Angiulo described the enthusiasm of Windows 8 developers and the three reasons he felt that ecosystem is thriving.
"When we were there on day one we had more apps in the Windows app store than the iPad had. We now have 4 times as many since launch and all of the big names are represented."

The reasons he lists for the success in the Windows Store ecosystem are:

  1. "All Windows 8 apps run on all Windows 8 PCs, not just tablets. All Windows 8 PCs, whether its an upgrade, desktop, or all-in-one can run those apps so that means overnight you have a hug installed base that you can sell to; Every Windows 8 customer.

  2. We have better terms for developers than our competitors and their app stores.  For example, 100% of in-app sales are commission free.

  3. We've tried to be the most platform agnostic in terms of coding languages in building an app platform."

I then asked about the rumors of further convergence between Windows 8 and the Windows Phone 8 environments.  His comments made it clear that this convergence, while not necessarily absolute, was very important to Microsoft.
"Originally we started at the IE (Internet Explorer) level, that's where all of the UI rendering and app rendering takes place. In Windows 8 there is more alignment all the way down the stack. Full Windows RT will run on a phone processor.  Windows system requirements have gotten lower with each release. so we're now at a place where a phone has more processing power than PCs did so we're able to have more similarities."

He did point out that apps that we use may not be exactly the same due to the hardware differences between PCs, tablets, and phones but that they don't want to force differences unless its necessary.

The final question I asked was why a developer writing applications should choose the Windows 8 ecosystem with it's current lower market share and devices which are only now showing some popularity as compared to more mature ecosystems like iPad and Android.  His response was a slightly less enthusiastic take on Steve Ballmer's "Developers, Developers, Developers" chant but hinted at the opportunities available in the Windows ecosystem.
"As far as building platforms for developers to write applications that are profitable for them, we have been in this business for many years. We have a strong developer support mentality.  What has changed is the economics of shipping an app that costs $2 is totally different from shrink wrap software for $100. It's accessible to more developers and you can access more customers because you have the scale of phones. It's an awesome opportunity.  Our job is to make sure they see a large customer opportunity, that they see a low barrier of entry to get their apps in the store, and that they see economics that are compelling."

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Paul Ballard

Paul Ballard is a Chief Architect specializing in large scale distributed system development and enterprise software processes. Paul has more than twenty years of development experience including being a former Microsoft MVP, a speaker at technical conferences such as Microsoft Tech-Ed and VSLive, and a published author. Prior to working on the Windows platform, he built software using a vast array of technologies including Java, Unix, C, and even OS/2.