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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers a keynote during the 2015 Microsoft Build Conference on April 29, 2015 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. Thousands are expected to attend the annual developer conference which runs through May 1.Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Microsoft Corp. expects a billion people to be using its Windows 10 operating system in the software's first two to three years, signalling optimism in its push to revive Windows and make it more useful on smaller devices.

Windows chief Terry Myerson made the forecast Wednesday at the company's Build developer conference in San Francisco. He also unveiled tools to make it easier to convert applications originally programmed for Google Inc.'s Android and Apple Inc.'s iOS platforms to Windows phones without rewriting the code.

Microsoft is trying to use Windows 10, which goes on sale this summer, to jump-start the personal-computer market and to entice more tablet and smartphone buyers to choose Windows models. The company is also betting that easier development of mobile apps and the ability to repurpose work done for other operating systems will get more engineers to build Windows programs, which in turn could help woo users.

"One thing we haven't had – a great Windows release could drive people to refresh their PC," Myerson said in an interview. "I see people with these Windows 7 PCs and I look at a great new 2-in-1 device with touch and I think there's so much more you could have. I'm a little more optimistic."

The company also said it will make it easier to turn websites into Windows applications, as well as older apps that use Microsoft's .Net and Win32. For websites, users will be prompted for a short download, which will then let the website send notifications and e-commerce services. The site also can take advantage of Microsoft's Cortana voice-activated digital assistant. For developers of iOS, Android, Win32 and .Net apps, the changes mean they can reuse almost all of the programming code and convert them for Windows.

Game Tools

King Digital Entertainment PLC has already used the iOS tools to bring its popular Candy Crush game to Windows, Myerson said.

The company will also update developers on progress with software called Windows Holographic, along with a headset with glasses called HoloLens, which will let users see and interact with holograms while tracking their voices, movements and surroundings.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is introducing what it calls Universal Apps, which work regardless of the size of the device – though developers will have to add code if they want to tweak the programs to only show certain things on, say, an Xbox, or to make use of 3D holograms using HoloLens.

Microsoft said companies such as Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co., Evernote Corp. and Box Inc. are creating Windows 10 Universal apps. Myerson demonstrated Tencent's WeChat app, as well as an app from USA Today that keeps track of what article someone is reading on a PC and opens the same one when that user shifts to a mobile app. The Xbox version of the app only loads stories that have video content.

App Store

For Windows 10, Microsoft will have one app store regardless of whether users are on PCs, tablets or phones and will add the ability to pay for apps through customers' wireless carriers – an advantage in countries where fewer customers have credit cards, Myerson said.

Microsoft is aiming to revive the Windows franchise with Windows 10. The update is trying to win back consumers while mollifying corporate concerns about Windows 8's design overhaul.

The program has a design that blends some aspects of Windows 8 with the older, more popular Windows 7's appearance. It adds a new browser, code-named Spartan, to succeed Internet Explorer. The update to Windows will also bring Cortana to PC desktops, and will have touch-enabled Office applications such as Word and Excel built in for smartphones and tablets.

Sales of Windows are suffering along with a declining PC market, after corporate customers upgraded new machines last year because Microsoft was ending support for the 13-year-old Windows XP. That buying cycle has petered out and global PC shipments dropped 5.2 per cent in the first quarter, according to researcher Gartner Inc.

Last week, Microsoft said sales of Windows to PC makers to install on their machines dropped 19 per cent for the Pro version and 26 per cent for other versions in the most recent quarter.