October 31, 2012, 3:01 PM — Steve Ballmer looked relaxed on stage. Dressed down in a short sleeve shirt and pants, he smiled, he cracked jokes, and he energetically rallied the 2000-strong crowd of developers at the opening keynote to Microsoft's Build conference on the company's leafy Redmond, Washington campus.
It was a very different Ballmer on stage than we saw at other events in the past year, including last week's stiff and formal Windows 8 launch event in New York City. The energetic tenor of Ballmer's keynote and the second, Windows Phone 8-focused keynote, reflected the conference's underlying theme of building out the Windows app ecosystem.
"In case it's not clear, we're all in with Windows 8," Ballmer enthused during Tuesday's Build opener. "Every group in Microsoft has contributed something that's optimized for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and touch."
Tuesday's keynote was clearly aimed at its audience of attending developers. But six trends and takeaways emerged from the talk that paint a clear picture of Microsoft's view of the world.
Windows 8 has huge potential for apps
Ballmer opened things up Tuesday by noting that Microsoft has sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades since the operating system went on sale three days ago. (For context, 670 million Windows 7 PCs have the potential to run Windows 8.) And current estimates are that some 400 million new devices will soon be shipping that developers can target.
"Our industry is rebuilding itself around new devices and services," Ballmer noted before he called on developers to rise to the occasion. This new universe represents an opportunity for app developers to make one app for all PC forms. "It's an unprecedented market. Hundreds of millions of users are dying to buy your application."
Throughout the morning, Ballmer energetically rallied the troops. "This is a market in which you can do your best work, most innovative work, most creative work. Whatever you do as a developer, Windows 8 is the best opp for software developers today.
"I guarantee you this will be the best opportunity software developers will see."
The apps are coming
At last week's Windows 8 launch event, I was disappointed to hear so little about Windows 8 apps. During Tuesday's keynote, Microsoft showed off more app icons on-screen, though it was unclear from how they were presented which ones were shipping now and which were coming soon.