The big news was that Ballmer announced that SAP, Dropbox, and Twitter have all announced plans for Windows 8 apps. This is exactly the kind of app development commitment consumers need to hear about and see more of in the coming weeks if people are to get excited about the modern interface in Windows. It's a pity we didn't hear this last week--a time when consumers were paying attention.
I still wish that that Microsoft could be more specific about the number of apps, and which apps are coming. To say that Windows 8 has more apps than other platforms' app stores did at launch isn't enough: The market has changed since those other App Stores debuted. And consumers want to know more what they're buying into up front if they're to have confidence in what Microsoft's building.
Opportunities for new and more personal apps are huge
"Your application will be the most personal [it can be] if you choose to marry the opportunities in the system [with the software]," Ballmer told Build attendees. He emphasized the easy sharing between phone and PC, the ubiquity of various Windows experiences like search and share, and the strength of integrating with a Microsoft account and leveraging SkyDrive cloud storage.
"Search, share, live tiles, live activity--these are all things you can also do with your apps," Ballmer said.
Perhaps Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft's corporate vice president of developer and platform evangelism, put it best: "The thing about the hardware ecosystem is that it doesn't come to life without the software. It's about the marriage of hardware and software--and services, in some cases."
The reality check here is that what Guggenheimer espouses isn't new. In fact, it's what we've known for years now, and have seen epitomized by Apple's iPhone hardware and its integration with the iOS app ecosystem.
The difference now is that we're hearing this from stodgy old Microsoft--the company that arguably has the most vibrant and daringly different touch interface of any operating system today. It's refreshing to hear, because it's an admission that means Microsoft does indeed get what it needs to do to succeed in this brave new mobile world.
Businesses are interested in Windows 8
Before Tuesday, the signs around how enterprise's interest in Windows were tepid at best. And that's not surprising, given IT departments' traditional reticence to jump on a major Windows upgrade.
But Ballmer announced Tuesday that Microsoft had sold some 10 million units of Windows 8 into the enterprise market. While no mention was made of when those unit might be deployed into the field, it still highlights burgeoning interest in the new operating system within the business world.