Microsoft Plays Nice with Azure for iOS: An Open Road for a Mobile Future

In August Scott Guthrie, a corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division, announced the Windows Azure Mobile Services which is a new capability of Windows Azure that “makes it incredibly easy to connect a scalable cloud backend to your client and mobile applications.”

It allows users to easily store structured data in the cloud that can span both devices and users, integrate it with user authentication, as well as send out updates to clients via push notifications.

Yesterday, Guthrie announced the delivery of a number of improvements to the Windows Azure Mobile Services, such as iOS support which enables developers to connect iPhone and iPad apps to Mobile Services; Facebook, Twitter, and Google authentication support with Mobile Services; Blob, Table, Queue, and Service Bus support from within your Mobile Service; Sending emails from your Mobile Service (in partnership with SendGrid); Sending SMS messages from your Mobile Service (in partnership with Twilio); and the ability to deploy mobile services in the West US region.

Android, too?

All these features are now available and ready to be used, with Guthrie also noting there will be more enhancements coming later this week.

What this means for developers is that making cross-platform apps will be much easier.  Mobile Services provide a rich programming model, including client libraries for devices, a JavaScript library for server-side business logic, and REST APIs.

When it was first released, the service only catered to developers who wanted to develop apps for Windows 8 and the Windows Store, but promised that the service will soon be available for developers on other platforms like Android.

With Open Arms

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched their new social network platform,, which aimed to compete with Google, not Facebook, since Microsoft is a shareholder for the social networking giant.  So the Facebook authentication support is not that surprising.  But with the Twitter and Google authentication support, Microsoft makes it known that they are willing to play nice with competitors.

Microsoft is aware that their mobile and social efforts aren’t as popular as they want it to be.  Windows Phone-based devices haven’t gained much traction with consumers, and neither is  In Millennial Media’s September mobile report, the mobile advertising firm stated that more people are interested in purchasing either an Apple iPhone or Samsung’s range of Galaxy devices, which runs on Android.  But Microsoft wants desperately to compete in the mobile and social sectors, fully aware they are the underdogs in these markets.  Their strategy is to open their doors to developers of other platforms, hoping to stay relevant in these booming sectors.

But Microsoft still faces an uphill battle.  In July, the IDC reported that developers’ interest in developing for Windows Phone 7 apps declined by 37 percent, though 33 percent of developers voiced out interest in developing for Windows 8 tablets.  The silver lining is Microsoft’s established business in computer software makes their upcoming Windows 8 tablet an attractive option for the enterprise, and this could be a fresh opportunity for Microsoft and OEMs.

Looking at the big picture, Microsoft’s open-arm approach is a direct strike against Google, a company that’s won over the consumer cloud market with web-based alternatives to Microsoft’s proprietary software.   Though Microsoft’s platform isn’t open-sourced per se, they’re giving developers more freedom and opportunities to develop Microsoft software for other platforms.