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Mobile first, cloud first: Microsoft looks to the future

Microsoft comes to Computex to lay out its plan for the Windows platform and a ​common experience across multiple devices.

Nick Parker on stage at Computex 2014. Aloysius Low/CNET

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In an unsurprisingly bullish keynote address, Microsoft's vice president of OEM partners, Nic Parker, and other Microsoft luminaries have taken to the stage at Computex here to put forward the company's vision for its "next billion Windows devices."

After describing the last year as "phenomenal" for Microsoft, Parker said that the company has its eye on mobile.

"Mobile-first, cloud-first" was how Parker, echoing new CEO Satya Nadella, described Microsoft's vision for the future -- a future in which Windows was the main driver of "ubiquitous computing" including, to use Parker's phrasing, "the devices we carry on us, as opposed to with us."

Nic Healey/CNET

Tony Prophet, vice president of Windows marketing, hit the stage next. Prophet said that 1.5 billion Windows devices are in use every day. The next billion devices, according to Prophet, will come from Microsoft fostering opportunities in its ecosystem with partners, along with accelerating its innovation. The company is aiming to break free of old patterns of development cycles, offering instead regular "feature-rich" updates to its software, not just patches and bug fixes.

At its heart, Microsoft's strategy seems to be one of offering a common Windows experience across multiple devices for the individual user. That includes cloud-based services working across the entire Microsoft ecosystem, but also the new Universal Windows apps spoken about at Build 14 earlier in the year.

These are conceived as a way for developers to create apps that work consistently across phone, tablet, hybrid and desktop. Users would be able to buy an app once and have it work consistently across all Windows devices.

Microsoft's global product market manager, Nick Hedderman, then launched a slightly confusing demonstration of the recent changes made to Windows and Windows Phone, such as the ability to pin apps to the taskbar, slightly better mouse and keyboard integration from the start screen and, of course, Cortana on mobile .

While most of the demo wasn't anything that hadn't seen before, he did look at the Windows Files application -- the first first-party file manager on any mobile device, according to Hedderman.

The Internet of Things got its obligatory mention, with Prophet suggesting that Windows was already the perfect system for running a world of connected devices. A little more interestingly, Prophet did note that Microsoft will build a connectivity suite using Microsoft Azure to make it easier for Windows devices to communicate with non-Windows ones in the Internet of Things.

With a vision of Windows as an OS capable of offering a unified experience across all type of device, CNET asked Parker at a later press event if he saw a time when Microsoft wouldn't want to work with other operating systems in dual OS devices.

Windows/Android dual boots are nothing new after all, with Asus even launching a new one -- the Transformer Book V -- earlier at Computex.

The response was suitably guarded, with Parker carefully avoiding any opportunity to put the boot into Android.

"Usually with dual OS devices, it's usually been about providing a user with different capabilities," Parker said. "Whether it's the idea that you want you an environment that's purely about the consuming media or whether you want to be in a mode where you can crank out word documents or anywhere in between.

"I'd like to think that you can actually provide all of those capabilities through Windows. I think the success of our 2-in-1s proves this and I'd challenge both our developers and our customers to just use Windows in all of those modes."