Microsoft opens Windows Azure Mobile Services public preview

Add this one to the Smart column. Earlier today, Microsoft unveiled Windows Azure Mobile Services, initially for Windows 8 apps, with support planned for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The concept is a natural extension of Azure as development platform. Hey, why should Microsoft let Amazon and Google build out the infrastructure enabling the cloud-connected device era to trample the PC?

For now, the new service is available in a "public preview", during which time the first 10 Windows 8 apps are free. Developers who don't have an Azure account can create a 90-day free trial one.

Among Microsoft's objectives:

  • Provide developers with robust, back-end cloud infrastructure for their apps
  • Enable all developers to add cloud services support to their apps within minutes
  • Provide existing Azure developers with a familiar and friendly cloud dev platform
  • Better position Microsoft to capitalize on cloud-connected devices, like iPad or Surface
  • Pull computing relevance from the cloud back to applications by providing richer user experience
  • Preserve Windows' relevance in the post PC-era, while extending the core apps stack to mobile and cloud

For developers already accustomed to Azure and participating in the public preview, there is a new "Mobile Services" tab on the admin portal. Microsoft provides a Wizard-like utility for creating new services. It's shake and bake. Scott Guthrie, president of Microsoft's developer division, explains the process in the embedded video above.

The announcement makes more sense of another this week. Yesterday, Microsoft formally joined several Big Data vendors working with OASIS to standardize Open Data protocol. While OData supports both MySQL and SQL Server, Microsoft's drive unsurprisingly is its own technology.

"When you create a Windows Azure Mobile Service, we automatically associate it with a SQL Database inside Windows Azure", Guthrie explains. "The Windows Azure Mobile Service backend then provides built-in support for enabling remote apps to securely store and retrieve data from it (using secure REST end-points utilizing a JSON-based OData format) -- without you having to write or deploy any custom server code. Built-in management support is provided within the Windows Azure portal for creating new tables, browsing data, setting indexes, and controlling access permissions".

During the setup process, the developer either creates a new or accesses an existing SQL Server database. Initial services include authentication, data storage and push notifications.

WAMS Preview projects are deployed to datacenters located in Eastern United States, and Microsoft warns that international developers can expect "some latency" as a result.

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