Satya Nadella promises a revitalized Windows Phone ecosystem

When I attended Microsoft’s Build conference in April, I witnessed an indelible hunger from developers for the company’s developer tools. I saw a crowd of over 3,000 people pack into a keynote to see Satya Nadella and his team wax on for hours about cloud APIs and Objective-C support, lapping up every word.

And despite the lack of Windows 10 Mobile commentary,  it was with shock last week when I heard the company was laying off 7,800 people from its phone division.

Satya Nadella says that the move was done to make the company’s mobile division leaner, and to focus on building Windows 10 as a cohesive platform of which mobile is one distinct part of the whole, not a separate division.

Talking to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley after the Microsoft Partner Conference, Nadella spun the notion that making Windows 10 free for most users was about getting people developing for the platform. “All of this comes down to how are you going to get developers to come to Windows,” he told Foley. “If you come to Windows, you are going to be on the phone, too. Even if you want to come to Windows because of HoloLens, you want to come to it because of Xbox, you want to come to the desktop, all those get you to the phone. It’s not about let’s do head-on competition. That will never work. You have to have a differentiated point of view.”

In other words, Microsoft’s new unified developer approach to Windows 10, where building an app for one screen means building one for all, is going to help Windows 10 in the long run. Having a Start Menu showcase new and exciting apps, he says, is going to bolster access to those developers, too.

Of course this doesn’t take into account that mobile platforms often require an entirely different user experience, and building a touch app for a tablet or desktop is not going to translate effortlessly to the smaller screen. Nor does it consider apps like Instagram, Snapchat and others that only live on mobile; what impetus would developers have to create a Windows 10 app for those services if the mobile audience remains impossibly small?

Nadella did reiterate the company’s promise that high-end Lumias will be coming later this year alongside the release of Windows 10 Mobile, which continues to make strides in its pre-release development phase.

He also talked about HoloLen’s initial launch path, which will focus on the enterprise and, more broadly, education, before being marketed to consumers. Augmented reality is certainly interesting to the average techie, but the implications for business is much more immediate.

The whole interview is interesting, and certainly worth reading, so take a gander.