Microsoft Rolls Out Mobile Cloud Services for Windows 8 Developers

The first public preview of Windows Azure Mobile Services is designed to provide an on-ramp for Windows 8 developers who want to build connected applications--without the learning curve.

In case you missed it, Microsoft introduced tooling at the end of August designed to ease the use of Windows Azure cloud services for mobile app developers.

The company has acknowledged that many client app developers may not have the time or the inclination to learn how to create and use cloud-based backend services. The first public preview of Windows Azure Mobile Services (codenamed Zumo) is designed to provide an on-ramp for Windows 8 developers who want to build connected applications without a steep learning curve.

The Windows Azure Mobile Services preview, which was released on August 28, supports the creation of apps using Azure to connect to backend services such as structured data storage, user authentication and push notifications.

"Over time, you will see more and more services exposed," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie, during a Channel 9 demo showcasing the new Mobile Services technology.

Guthrie offered more detail on how the data storage services work in his blog announcing the preview. "When you create a Windows Azure Mobile Service, we automatically associate it with a SQL database inside Windows Azure," he explained. "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," said Guthrie.

Windows Azure Mobile Services currently support WinRT applications (C# and JavaScript), formerly called "Metro" and now described by Microsoft as "Windows Store apps." In addition to the Mobile Services SDK, developers will need Windows 8 and Visual Studio 2012, or the free Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 tooling.

Microsoft is planning to support mobile operating systems beyond Windows 8 including Windows Phone, iOS and Android, according to Guthrie. "We are going to publish documentation for the HTTP REST APIs shortly - which will make it easy for anyone to consume them from any platform," he said in response to a question on his blog. "We'll then provide pre-built REST helper methods for Win8/iOS/Android/others for those who want to work with language libraries as opposed to raw REST ones."

Some developers are already offering potential workarounds for using Windows Azure Mobile Services with the iOS and Windows Phone 7 platforms, according to Josh Twist, who works on the Windows Azure Mobile Services team at Microsoft. Twist outlined the thinking behind the Mobile Services project in his blog, The Joy of Code, last week.

To try out Windows Azure Mobile Services, you can sign up for a free Windows Azure 90-day trial, which includes a free 1GB SQL Database; or access the preview from an existing account. Go to the Windows Azure Portal and look for Quick Start under Mobile Services (found under New). You can test the tooling using existing Windows 8 apps and SQL Databases, or create new ones. As part of your Windows Azure account, you can build up to 10 Mobile Services free-of-charge in a shared multi-tenant environment, according to Microsoft.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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