Whether you're on the cloud bandwagon or not, one thing you can say about Microsoft and Windows Azure is that unlike a lot of teams in Microsoft, they're actually listening to what customers want and are rapidly evolving their services to meet these needs. Microsoft's original thrust for Windows Azure was in the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) space—marketing Windows Azure as an application deployment platform. However, as Amazon and other began to see success with their Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Microsoft responded with the Windows Azure Hyper-V role, enabling Windows Azure to become an IaaS provider and a better competitor to Amazon.
The same type of metamorphosis has happened in the Windows Azure Mobile Services space. Predictably, when Azure Mobile Services was launched, it was a cloud backend for Windows Phone mobile devices, but Microsoft rapidly began embracing other mobile platforms as well.
Azure Mobile Services enables mobile devices to store their structured data, use its user authentication tools, and send out push notifications. First, Microsoft added support for Apple's iOS last October 2012. You can learn about Azure's support for iOS at Get Started with Mobile Services.
Microsoft made another step in this direction by announcing Windows Azure Mobile Services support for Android. Although Android is clearly a competitor to Microsoft's own Windows Phone, the fact that it is the undisputed leader in the mobile device market makes it an important platform for Microsoft to support— especially if they want their Azure cloud technologies to be gain widespread adoption. With the March 5, 2013 release of the new Azure Mobile Services Android 2.2 apps and higher, you can connect to Azure storage as well as take advantage of authentication services and push notifications. The Android SDK was developed by the Microsoft Open Technologies team. The Windows Azure team worked on the push support and the portal integration. With this latest release, Windows Azure Mobile Services now supports all of the major mobile device platforms.
Other enhancements to the Windows Azure include:
- support for Windows Azure Mobile Services to the East Asia region
- support for creating and managing SQL Reporting Services
- Active Directory user and domain management
- availability monitoring for cloud services and virtual machines
- new Service Bus configuration and metrics
- other enhancements across the platform
You can learn more about the new Windows Azure release from ScottGu's Blog. You can find out more about Windows Azure Mobile Services from the Windows Azure site. Read more details about Windows Azure's support for Android in the Windows Azure Team Blog. Finally, if you're a developer, you can download the Android SDK from GitHub.
Microsoft is often characterized as a big ship that can't turn very fast, but the rapid evolution in Windows Azure shows that they can be a very agile development company indeed.