Windows Phone 7 Tutorials, Bing Share, IE Birthday Marked Microsoft Week

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-08-22

Windows Phone 7 Tutorials, Bing Share, IE Birthday Marked Microsoft Week

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.

Bing Holds Steady


Microsoft's competition with Google continued in the search-engine arena, with new data suggesting that Bing's percentage of U.S. online searches held steady between June and July. That data, from analysis firm Experian Hitwise, put Bing's overall market share at 9.86 percent for July, behind both Google at 71.43 percent and Yahoo at 14.43 percent.

Similar numbers from comScore put Bing's July market share at 11 percent, trailing Yahoo with 17.1 percent and Google with 65.8 percent.

Depending on how one interprets the data, either Bing is demonstrating long-term staying power in its battle against Google, or else Microsoft's search engine is losing traction for new users.

"The search share for Bing remained flat month-over-month at 11 percent, and roughly 60 basis points lower than March levels, indicating that Bing's momentum is perhaps slowing down," Youssef Squali, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Aug. 17 research note.

In either case, Microsoft's search market share looks to expand once Yahoo completes the transfer of its back-end search to Bing. That transition is expected to take place over the next few days in the United States and Canada; once finished, Yahoo users will begin seeing "Powered by Bing" tags on their search-engine results.

Yahoo and Microsoft signed a search-and-advertising deal in summer 2009 that would see Yahoo take over worldwide sales force duties for both companies' search advertisers, while Bing took over back-end search. In theory, that will give Microsoft a much stronger competitive position with regard to Google, once it absorbs Yahoo's portion of the search market. 

Bing's newer features, including colorful maps, demonstrate how far Web applications have evolved since 15 years ago, when Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 1.0. That anniversary was marked this week. Although Internet Explorer continues to hold the lion's share of the browser market, it currently faces a robust challenge from the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox; IE has also been at the center of its own controversies, notably the landmark United States versus Microsoft antitrust case.

Microsoft plans on launching Internet Explorer 9 on Sept. 15, in a high-profile event in San Francisco. Improvements will reportedly include speedier browser performance, greater compatibility and compliance with standards, and enhanced HTML5 support.

Fifteen years ago, of course, terms such as "HTML5" and "smartphone" weren't even part of the lexicon. Who knows what the next decade and a half will bring?

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