I'm realizing that there are tons of device verticals that could each benefit from their own unified platform+API. I see many opportunities for Microsoft to foster application development on Windows (whether its desktop or Windows Store application development) by forming industry alliances and developing Windows-based platforms for these alliances.
- Home automation*
- In-vehicle infotainment*
- Security/surveillance systems
- Automotive diagnostic equipment
- Medical diagnostic equipment
- Point of sale devices
*Both Google and Apple are going after these verticals already
As it stands now, every vertical is a huge mess. Equipment makers are responsible for their own software. Even if equipment makers want to protect their own rice bowls of compatible equipment, they don't necessarily want to be in the business of developing the software for their products. If each vertical had its own unified platform, equipment manufacturers could allow third parties do the development of the software, allowing them to focus on what they do best--the equipment.
Stephen Elop famously said that there's a war of ecosystems going on. In order to control an ecosystem, you need to create the platform and the APIs, and being first to create the platform+API goes a long way toward winning the war. Microsoft already has a solid foundation onto which it can build these vertical platforms (Windows + .NET/WinRT). It just needs to take the next step.
I know Microsoft has already done something like this in the area of multimedia with the Media Transfer Protocol, but it's at a really low-level and the main intent was to create an abstraction for file management. I'm talking about creating something at a much higher level.