Microsoft pitches cloud, phone apps to developers

At its Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft is talking up Windows Azure, Windows Phone 7, IE9, and HTML5

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer led Microsoft executives Thursday in promoting the company's Windows Azure cloud and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms as key destinations for application developers.

Speaking at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft executives detailed incremental improvements to development tools and Azure, including making the company's application lifecycle management server, Team Foundation Server, available in the Azure platform-as-a-service cloud. Also emphasized were efforts in HTML5 and the Internet Explorer browser.

[ Windows Phone 7 received a bad review from InfoWorld columnist Galen Gruman. | Check out InfoWorld's guide on how to use HTML5. | Keep up with the latest app dev news with the Developer World newsletter. ]

"The cloud is a backplane on which to program and rapidly deploy applications," said Ballmer.

"We've got a great opportunity for you and for us with Windows Phone," Ballmer said. Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's entrant into the smartphone space, a space where Microsoft has trailed other companies, such as Apple, as far as mindshare.

In the cloud space, Microsoft's placement of TFS in the Azure cloud makes it easier to access, stressed Brian Harry, Microsoft technical fellow. "Today, you have to install TFS on premise," he said. With the cloud version, developers can just connect to their project and check out work items, Harry said.

"It's really no different than your TFS as you know it today," said Harry.

"Bringing TFS to Azure is a good way to show developers how a complex and sizeable application can be factored into the cloud," said analyst Al Hilwa of IDC. "This is going to be scrutinized by any developer who is seriously working on an Azure project."

A Community Technology Preview of TFS on Azure is due next year.  Microsoft stressed Azure is for both public and private cloud deployments.

For its Windows Phone 7 developer toolkit, Microsoft is adding a profiling tool for finding performance bottlenecks. The toolkit features free tools, such as Visual Studio Express and Expression Blend.

"A profiler is a must for serious apps," Hilwa said. "Application momentum [for the phone platform] appears to be coming along nicely. We are all watching if the ramp-up speed for WP7 apps will match that of Android, for example."

Microsoft officials also stressed commitment to HTML5 and the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser.

"We've already passed 10 million downloads on IE 9, making it the most downloaded beta release of IE ever," Ballmer said.

The browser will leverage HTML5 capabilities such as canvas tags and audio. "IE accelerates the whole Web -- video, audio, text, SVG, canvas, and all the other graphics on your page," said Dean Hachamovich, Microsoft corporate vice president for Internet Explorer.

While the focus was on mobile, Web, and cloud computing, Ballmer also plugged Microsoft's bread-and-butter PC platform.

"The PC is the number one smart device on the planet today, and there's lots of innovation going on" Ballmer said. He again said there would be new form factors for the holiday season and beyond for the Windows PC, including netbooks and tablets. Microsoft has lagged behind Apple, in particular, in the tablet space, with Apple's iPad tablet becoming extremely popular.

Microsoft also rolled out other developments related to Azure:

  • Windows Azure Marketplace, including DataMarket, formerly known as "Project Dallas." Users can access demographic, financial, mapping, and entertainment data and other content. The marketplace is available now.

  • Windows Azure AppFabric Composition Model, to speed the process of assembling services by providing application deployment and management capabilities
  • Extra Small Windows Azure Instance, to ease the process of developing, testing and trial. The service is for developers to who want to run smaller applications Azure and is priced at five cents per compute hour.

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Paul Krill

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