Like a few folks, I’ve been interested to hear what Microsoft would announce at this year’s Build Conference. At the beginning of the year, the company highlighted the unified code base that Windows 10 will bring. You can take a look at this Techmeme snapshot to get a good sense of what news the company shared yesterday. Microsoft’s strategy continues its focus on getting Windows 10 on as many devices as possible, to the tune of having it run on over 1 billion devices within the next two to three years.

So, how do they plan to get there? Several different ways: 1) By offering free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 consumers 2) By offering developers two software developer kits (SDKs) to help port over both Android and iOS apps and 3) By offering the maker community Windows 10 on Internet-connected devices 4) By winning new Windows 10 customers on the operating systems own merits and finally 5) By enticing corporate customer running Windows XP (really) and Windows 7 to upgrade to Windows 10.

Windows 10 - 1 billion devices

Some of the above tactics to grow the user base will be easier than others. One big question mark is whether developers will bite on porting their iOS or Android apps to Windows. While I’m glad to see they didn’t go the emulation route, it’s still going to take some convincing on Microsoft’s part. Another variable is how much effort porting these apps will take. We’ll see. Corporate OS transitions always take years, and these days IT decision makers have a lot more options than they did years ago. It remains to be seen how the general public will perceive Windows 10 overall, but the negative perception of Windows 8 is there and will have to be overcome. On the easier to execute side, offering free Windows 10 upgrades to consumers for a year will definitely help the cause. Also, there’s a good chance that Microsoft will have success with the maker community/ Internet-connected devices for one main reason: the security expertise that Microsoft brings to the table. Yes, lack of security is a huge problem in the Internet of Things space. Poking around SHODAN for even a few minutes shows just how big of a problem.

Marketing opportunities aside, the race to 1 billion exists for one reason: to attract developers back into the Windows fold. Developers write apps for the platforms where the most customers are. That’s a fundamental reality that has driven the tech space for decades. Smartphones and tablets have altered the landscape a bit in that they’ve created app ecosystems, but the game is still about getting developers to write for iOS, Android or Windows. Beyond just lots of users, Microsoft has created a unified code base around Windows 10, which they refer to it as the Universal Windows Platform.  Essentially, that means a developer can write (or now port an iOS or Android app) a single app that can run on a PC, smartphone, tablet or Xbox with minimal tweaking, while preserving a consistent user experience. That’s what Continuum is all about. Here’s how it will work on next-gen Windows Phone hardware:

If you’re a diehard Apple or Google fan, why should you care? Because solid competition paves the way for innovation. That’s why I say the tech space is better with a strong Microsoft. When companies innovate, it keeps pressure on their competition. In general, that means more capability for end users.

Looking at Microsoft’s competition, the Apple train continues to roll on. Their recent Q2 earnings confirmed a staggering 61 million iPhones for the quarter. And all those iPhones are by far the biggest chunk of Apple’s $193.5 billion(!)  in cash. With Android, Google continues its dominance in terms of smartphone volume worldwide. According to IDC research, surpassed the 1 billion unit mark for an 81% share of the mobile OS market. While new Chromebook offerings have some level of traction, seems to me that Google is more vulnerable in that it doesn’t have a foothold in the desktop OS space like both Apple and Microsoft.

Will the strategy work? No way to say for sure. Like I’ve said many time before, there are no guarantees in the tech space. Microsoft fired its best shot yesterday at the Build Conference. Time will tell, but in my opinion, it looks like a pretty competitive one. And that’s good for all of us.