Microsoft’s Build conference may not be on everyone’s radar. Build is a developer conference, so it’s not one that a lot of people outside of the development community pay much attention to. If you’re not a developer you may want to try to catch the keynote news this year anyway. We already know that Microsoft is going to be releasing a preview of Windows 8.1 (code name: Blue) on the 26th of June to coincide with the start of the conference. What hasn’t been talked about nearly as much is that Microsoft includes Xbox as a target of focus for this conference.
Microsoft perfected the ability to constantly stay in the news last year during the run-up to the release of Windows 8, and I fully expect them to do the same with the Xbox One this year. They had the official revealing of the entertainment console in late May, then only a couple of weeks later they had the huge announcements focusing on games for the platform at E3. Last week they made the news with their policy reversal on DRM. I think one of the reasons they did that last week, especially considering they really had five months to make that decision, was to clear the air for what they plan to announce at Build this week.
For years now Microsoft has been touting their “3 Screens and the Cloud” mantra. This is the idea of unifying a great experience across PC’s, mobile devices, and the television using the cloud to keep them interconnected. We’ve seen large steps in this direction as Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 have become much more closely linked. Build is the opportunity to truly bring Xbox into the fold. What I’m hoping for, and expecting, Microsoft to announce is an open development platform for the Xbox One. Basically imagine the ability to write apps and games in a very similar fashion to how it’s done for Windows 8, but making them available on the Xbox. They could have a store built into the console with the same 70/30 revenue sharing model that the Windows Store has, along with the same app certification process. We’ve seen what big companies have been able to do already with this level of access. Look at the game Skulls of the Shogun. It was released on Xbox 360, Windows 8, and Windows Phone all at the same time, and it was a huge success. Now imagine if that TV space was opened up to the rest of the development community. People have been saying for years that the Apple TV needs to support apps, but Apple hasn’t found a way to do it yet. This is Microsoft’s opportunity to capture a victory.
You don’t need to be a developer to imagine how big this could actually be, but as a developer the gears are already spinning in my head while I think of the possibilities. Build runs from June 26th through the 28th. Check back then to see if our prediction was right.