This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Develop in the Cloud, sponsored by AT&T. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Develop in the Cloud site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Microsoft's High-Risk Bets

They are not quite betting the company on Windows 8, but close.

The stakes are massive for Microsoft as it bids to remain relevant in the cloud and mobile era. And the company knows it full well.

I've written about the worrisome flatness of the early interest in, let alone demand for, Windows 8. The recent quick poll here asked about your plans for Windows 8, and it garnered a larger response than usual from the community. (It wasn't a scientific or a representative poll, so the results can be at best suggestive.) Those responding that they would "definitely or probably" develop for Windows 8 comprised 22 percent; the "no or probably not" vote was 67 percent. Oddly enough, this result is solidly in line with Gartner's prediction that Windows 8 will see only a 20 percent penetration in the enterprise.

If Windows 8 indeed fizzles as badly as, say, Microsoft Vista, it would be a 7-on-the-Richter-scale disaster not only for Microsoft, but for broad segments of the technology industry as well. Just such a disaster made Andrew C. Oliver's list of the 12 worst things that could happen to the industry in 2013 (as I mentioned in the Friday Four for October 12).

Microsoft seems to be fully aware of the stakes, if a report in Forbes is accurate. It claims that Microsoft is gearing up to spend $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion -- that 's billion with a B -- on the Windows 8 launch. That is an almost unimaginable number. That's over one and a half Instagrams. That's 8 or 9 times the size of the Windows 95 launch blitz. As Conputerworld reminds us, for that $200 million Microsoft clothed the Empire State Building in the brand's colors, hung a huge Windows 95 banner from the CN tower in Toronto, and hired the Rolling Stones.

The Wall Street Journal s reporting that the over-the-top Windows 8 assault is to begin over the weekend. So we shall all probably have been exposed to the campaign's early forays by the time this post goes live on Monday morning.

Windows 8, and the Metrofication of the Windows UI everywhere, is only the largest of the changes Microsoft is instigating. There's Office 13, which as my colleague Karl Hakkarainen wrote, is going all cloudy and moving to a development framework based on HTML, CSS, and Javascript. And most significant of all for Windows-based developers, there's a perceptable turning away from .NET.

Over at iProgrammer, Mike James has posted a nuanced piece about how developers ought to approach the coming changes as Microsoft enters the post-.NET era. .NET is not dead, and it's not even officially deprecated. But, noting that "Microsoft once had a dream but now it has a different dream," James concludes that for future development projects, "anything with .NET in its name isn't as good a prospect as it once was."