It was hard to miss the underlying message Bill Gates delivered during his opening keynote at Microsoft's first annual Mobile Developers Conference (MDC).
A humorous video Gates recycled from his January CES keynote in Las Vegas jokingly made reference to Microsoft "missing the boat" on the Internet during the mid-1990s.
As the mobile computing era gathers steam, Gates' speech signified that this time he won't let the moment pass by unnoticed.
"Every developer here should be thinking about how they can build Web services (for mobile devices)," Gates said.
Microsoft has officially launched its .Net Compact Framework to help developers working with tools like Visual Studio .Net develop applications for devices such as the smartphone.
Microsoft's vision is to provide the tools and platforms to unify what Gates said would be scenarios where users continued to interact with multiple form factors from the PC, to PDAs, cell phones, and wireless terminals. The success of the 1990s PC connectivity era was "just a warm-up for what will happen this decade."
Even voice communications would become integrated into the overall software mix, Gates said.
"We can take the divide between the voice world and the software world and bring them together," he said.
Ultimately, the end game for Microsoft as demonstrated by MDC was it must migrate its legions of Visual Studio developers to the mobile platform, lead product manager at Microsoft's mobile devices division, Ed Suwanjindar, said.
With AT&T and Verizon committed to shipping smartphones starting mid-year and analyst projections suggesting as many as 700 million mobile devices would be sold worldwide in the coming years, its opportunity was immense, Suwanjindar said.
"For developers, that's potentially hundreds of millions of sockets," he said.
This week's MDC conference will be repeated in Paris and Asia over the coming months.
Conference officials said 1,200 people registered at MDC New Orleans, 80 per cent of whom were developers, 15 per cent IT managers, and 5 per cent "others."