Microsoft hopes to sell developers on its vision for Azure -- and use the popularity of mobile platforms, including iOS and Android, to become a cloud powerhouse.
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On Thursday, Microsoft clarified the importance of Azure to its transitioning identity. If developers buy into the vision, Microsoft could use the popularity of mobile platforms, including iOS and Android, to become a cloud powerhouse.
During Thursday's keynote at Microsoft's Build conference, the company announced several new services for Windows Azure, its cloud computing platform. Microsoft hopes the offerings will inspire developers to make Azure the cloud infrastructure of choice, even for apps that run on non-Windows platforms. Microsoft also touted not only the growing number of companies that use the platform but also how Azure supports many of the company's homegrown products, such as Office 365.
Consistent with the Wednesday keynote led by CEO Steve Ballmer, Thursday's session emphasized that Microsoft is a company in the midst of rapid transition, much of it fueled by the rise of mobile devices. Ballmer declared last fall that the company would become a "devices and services" provider, and he reiterated the point when he spoke at Build.
Reports claim the CEO plans to restructure the company to reach this goal. In the meantime, company executives spent Thursday emphasizing that Azure represents a new, more open and collaborative attitude between Microsoft, developers, and competing platforms.
The announcements included the general availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services and Windows Azure Websites.
With Azure Mobile, Microsoft is trying to position its cloud as a foundation for developers who write for mobile platforms, including not only Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 but also iOS and Android. The company announced it will give mobile developers who use the Azure framework access to a new 20-MB SQL database.
Windows Azure Web Sites allows developers to create websites and applications in seconds, according to Microsoft officials. To appeal to a large number of Web developers, Azure Web Sites is fairly flexible, with support for a range of languages and frameworks, WordPress and other open-source applications, and multiple databases.
Both Azure Web Sites and Azure Mobile suggest an acknowledgement that the computing world has changed. Whereas Microsoft's Windows and Office software were once the primary vehicles for end users, iOS, Android, OS X and Chrome OS have changed the terrain. Legacy software remains crucial, but developments such as the cloud, Web apps, and various mobile ecosystems have altered the way software is written, and the way companies and developers make money.
Had Microsoft remained defined by Windows and Office, the new landscape would have diminished the company's clout, confining it to traditional PC work at a time when all the growth is on the mobile scene. But as Ballmer and other Microsoft executives argued, Windows is adapting to the times, and Wednesday's keynote was about keeping as many users and developers in the Windows ecosystem as possible.
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