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For the largest tech companies in the world, it's all about developers, developers, developers.
Apple has them in spades, Microsoft wants them and Facebook can thank them for helping it build one of the richest consumer internet companies ever in less than a decade.
Yesterday, Microsoft made what may be remembered as one of its most important announcements ever: it announced that it is designing, manufacturing and selling its own tablets.
The tablets, which the Redmond software giant has dubbed Surface, will sport two flavors of Windows 8: Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro.
According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Windows 8 represents a "rebirth" of Windows and it's the "deepest, broadest and most impactful" version of the operating system his company has yet created.
Those are strong words from a man whose legacy may hinge upon Windows 8's success. But Ballmer apparently isn't afraid to use them, or to offer up bold predictions about how fast Windows 8 will find its way onto consumer devices.
Windows 8 is coming, and Microsoft isn't the only company hoping that its newest operating system is a hit with consumers.
Chip giant Intel is betting big on ultrabooks -- thin, lightweight laptops similar to the MacBook Air -- and is investing big bucks to ensure that a slew of them hit store shelves as soon as Windows 8 is released later this year. The good news for consumers on a budget: some of those ultrabooks could cost as little as $699 if manufacturers have their way.
The rise of the tablet is one of the biggest trends in computing today and there's little reason to doubt that this trend won't get anything but stronger.
The new iPad smashed sales records, affordable tablets with rich content ecosystems like the Kindle Fire are helping bring these devices to the masses, and Intel is promising a slew of new tablets when Windows 8 is released later this year.
With tablet devices playing a larger and larger role in the world of consumer computing, it's no surprise that Microsoft has high hopes for its ability to compete in the tablet space. But right now there's one big problem: it doesn't have a tablet OS.
That will change with the release of Windows 8, an OS that has been designed for touch and which may contain the biggest changes to Windows since the company's flagship product was released in 1985.
Today, Apple thoroughly dominates the tablet space, and a couple of other pseudo-competitors (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) arguably are successfully extending the tablet market by targeting individuals who aren't as likely to buy an iPad.
Put another way: despite the efforts of companies like RIM and Samsung, only one non-content-oriented device maker sells a ton of tablets.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
When it comes to making its most popular software available for the iPad, that's precisely what Microsoft may be doing.
Q4, which includes the holiday shopping season, was good to many industries last year - but the PC industry wasn't one of them.
According to IDC, some of the biggest PC manufacturers, including HP, Dell and Acer, recorded declines in sales.
Performance was so bad that IDC described 2011 as "the second-worst year in history" for PCs, as total sales declined 5% from 2010.
Little more than a year ago, I asked the question, "Will the Mac app store change the desktop software landscape?"
The answer may not yet be obvious, but one thing is for sure: Apple's attempt to bring the app store model to the desktop isn't a flop.
Yesterday, the company announced that less than a year after launching, the Mac App Store has already surpassed the 100m download milestone.
According to Apple, this makes its newest app store "the largest and fastest growing PC software store in the world."
Windows 8 is coming, and it's going to bring more than just a new operating system to users. Perhaps inspired by Apple, Microsoft will be delivering an app store dubbed the Windows Store with the newest version of its OS.
The Windows Store, which Microsoft wants to be the primary distribution hub for Metro style apps, is clearly something Microsoft has high hopes for. In fact, it's one of the reasons Microsoft is calling Windows 8 "the largest developer opportunity, ever."