Microsoft's 2015 Build developer confab: Join us Wednesday (live blog)

This week Microsoft aims to convince consumers, businesses -- and especially developers -- to make the jump to Windows 10. The company's future depends on it.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
3 min read

Beyond a more classic look and feel that did away with the missteps of its predecessor, Windows 10 is designed to run on devices of all shapes and sizes. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

It's time for Microsoft Build, the software maker's annual developer conference where it serves up a glimpse of the future along with guidelines for building products and services for the estimated 1.5 billion Windows users in the world.

Microsoft's objective for this year's Build is pretty straightforward: convince the world that the newest version of its Windows operating system, Windows 10, adds enough new features and technology to push the software forward and gain mainstream acceptance -- not become another detour.

Build, which starts Wednesday, April 29, will offer a glimpse at the future of Windows, Microsoft's smartphone ambitions and the HoloLens augmented reality headset. Microsoft

Build, which lasts three days starting Wednesday, has typically been a place for in-the-weeds discussions about cloud computing and software architecture. We'll see a lot of that. But the summer release of Windows 10 -- along with promised new info on Microsoft's ambitious HoloLens augmented reality headset -- makes this year's Build a make-or-break event for the Redmond, Wash., company and its CEO, Satya Nadella.

Everyone gets that there's a lot riding on what happens this week, with interest high in watching an industry titan try to regain its swagger. Tickets, priced as high as $2,100 in January, sold out in 45 minutes. In 2014, Build tickets didn't sell out for a full day.

Nadella's keynote presentation starts at 8:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, and we'll be bringing you all the news and commentary from inside San Francisco's Moscone Center. I'll be live blogging along with Nate Ralph, who will be providing commentary and photography from the event.

CNET's live blog of Microsoft's 2015 Build developer conference

Windows 10, which Microsoft will offer as a free upgrade for a majority of Windows users for the first time, has the potential to solve some of Microsoft's most pressing problems.

"Windows 10 will be a service across an array of devices and will usher in a new area...where the mobility of the experience, not the device, is paramount," Nadella told investors last Thursday after Microsoft announced earnings and said that its profit topped Wall Street's expectations.

One of the biggest differentiators for Windows 10 is the ability for developers to write to a single code base, allowing them to create a so-called universal app that will work across any device so long as that device runs Windows 10. Those devices can include phones, tablets, PCs, the Xbox One game console, TVs and even the new HoloLens headset.

"There will be one way to write a universal application, one store, one way for apps to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices," Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems, said at the September unveiling of Windows 10.

Microsoft also is expected to talk about its Office 365 subscription service -- which delivers its productivity applications now over the Internet for an annual fee -- as well as its Azure cloud computing platform. Software makers now view annual subscriptions and cloud computing as the gifts that keep on giving. Microsoft is no exception -- and has begun a strategic shift away from one-time purchases of its Windows OS and Office application suite.

The company's cloud businesses are growing fast and on schedule to hit $6.5 billion in sales this year. Growth in that division helped send Microsoft's stock up more than 10 percent last Friday after its latest earnings report.

Microsoft has also promised a flagship Lumia phone this year to replace the Lumia 930, and it might trot the device out at Build. Microsoft released the Lumia 930 last summer after the company's purchase of Nokia's handset division in April 2014 for $7.2 billion.

Though that acquisition has increased sales of Microsoft smartphones, which now hover around $2 billion a quarter, Microsoft's Windows Phone software still holds a paltry 2.7 percent market share. A new flagship phone to rival Apple's iPhone 6 and Samsung's Galaxy S6 may help Microsoft gain more ground, especially if developers can simultaneously release one app for the PC, tablet and smartphone.