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Microsoft forecasts 1 billion Windows 10 computers, burst of new apps

Microsoft adds tools for app developers to turn their Android, iOS and Web creations into Windows apps

Microsoft expects its newest operating system, Windows 10, to be running on 1 billion computers within two to three years.

The figure, which includes desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones, was repeatedly touted Wednesday at Microsoft’s annual conference for application developers. Microsoft has struggled to get companies to make apps for Windows mobile devices, part of a self-perpetuating cycle that makes Windows smartphones less attractive to consumers.

But Microsoft announced several developer tools Wednesday that could bring thousands of new apps its way when Windows 10 launches this summer. The chance to reach 1 billion potential customers is the incentive for app makers to try out those tools. There are more than 1 billion mobile devices running Google’s Android software, but only half of them have the latest version, Microsoft said. In January, Apple announced that it had sold 1 billion devices running its iOS operating system since 2007.

One of Microsoft's new tools lets developers take the code that runs an Android app and re-use it to design a Windows app, according to Microsoft. That could greatly reduce the time and effort needed to build a Windows app. Other tools speed up turning websites, Apple apps and old-school Windows programs into apps that are able to run on nearly any size screen.

The popular mobile game “Candy Crush Saga” came to Windows smartphone in December with help of the new tools. Microsoft also showed off USA Today’s news app, WeChat’s messaging app and Viber’s calling app. To encourage spending on apps in areas where credit cards aren’t the norm, Microsoft said customers can pay for the apps through their cellphone plan accounts regardless of the device being used.

Borrowing a line from Apple’s former chief executive, Steve Jobs, Microsoft executive Vice President Terry Myerson said, “There’s one more thing we’re going to do” to encourage the developers attending the Build conference in San Francisco to start coding for Windows 10.

They’ll each receive an HP Spectre x360 laptop, which retails for more than $1,200.

“Compared to a Macbook Pro, it’s thinner, lighter and has a longer battery life and a touch display,” Myerson said.

As had been rumored, Microsoft officially brought an end to the Internet Explorer name for its Web browser. It’s now called Microsoft Edge, a reference to being on the cutting edge of technology, Microsoft said.

"It's a browser that end users will think about for getting things done,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president in Microsoft’s operating systems group.

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