Microsoft's progression toward a larger presence in the cloud and mobile spaces continued this week, with announcements related to Windows Phone 7 and the release of a new server build for SMBs (small to midsize businesses).
The latest preview of Windows Small Business Server, code-named Aurora, is now available for download. In addition to support for up to 25 user accounts, and advanced backup and file restoration options, Microsoft has incorporated a number of cloud-centric features into the build: Aurora users have access to pay-as-you-go online services that allow certain workload functions to be scaled upward, without needing to add IT infrastructure. IT administrators can also access the server from common Web browsers.
That emphasis on cloud-computing features plays into Microsoft's larger "all in" cloud strategy. "We are going to lead with the cloud," Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said during a speech at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting July 29. "Leading with the cloud actually helps better position Microsoft to sell more on-premises products than we ever have before. ... Very strategically it signals a very clear commitment to our customers and partners."
However, the company's initiatives have yet to contribute significantly to Microsoft's bottom line, which is still largely fueled by sales of traditional software products such as Windows 7. Azure, Microsoft's cloud-development platform, currently has around 10,000 users.
Microsoft also released a preview build of its Windows Home Server, code-named Vail, with added native support for Mac OS. Features include multi-PC backup and restore, simplified setup, media streaming outside a home or office, and a variety of development and customization tools. The Vail Preview SDK includes API references, how-to documents, templates for building add-ins with Visual Studio 2008 and examples of complete add-ins.
Microsoft's bid to developers extended to Windows Phone 7, as the company rolled out a new online series of tutorials demonstrating how to build games and apps for its upcoming smartphone platform.
"We recognize that providing as much technical content as we can for the full range of developers is what developers deserve," Brian Watson, Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7, wrote in an Aug. 17 posting on The Windows Blog. "While we plan on having more live training sessions in the coming weeks and months, we are also committed to making that content available as quickly as possible to as many developers as possible."
The 12, 50-minute sessions, with titles such as "Advanced Application Development" and "Marketing Your Windows Phone 7 Application," cover developer fundamentals such as how to build a Silverlight application and XNA-based games.
Microsoft hopes that Windows Phone 7 will gain traction with both consumers and businesses once it debuts later this year. The platform's user interface eschews the traditional "grids of individual apps" offered by the Apple iPhone and Google Android devices, in favor of a series of subject-specific "Hubs" that aggregate Web content and applications.