Microsoft is taking several big risks with the upcoming Windows 8 and to a degree with Windows Phone 8. It's also making several bets, one of them being on apps and an app store.
Granted, Microsoft is late to the party so maybe it's not exactly a bet as it is catching up. Whatever the case, apps are a big focus. But apps need developers and developers, with so many platforms to choose from, need to be wooed.
The latest Azure offering may be part of the wooing. Microsoft is now offering a set of APIs for mobile apps which provide a cloud backend with minimal hassle.
Many mobile apps aren't purely offline apps, some even require an internet connection to work. And most apps benefit from a cloud backend. The problem is, small developers rarely have the resources, the time or the skills to deploy a custom cloud solution on top of building the actual app.
This is where Windows Azure Mobile Services comes in. Microsoft is only opening it up as a Preview Release, it's not ready yet, but interested developers can give it a spin for free, with some limitations.
"Mobile Services allow you to connect your Windows 8 apps to a cloud backend hosted in Windows Azure and easily store structured data, authenticate users, and send push notifications. More importantly, Mobile Services enables you to accomplish these tasks within minutes," Microsoft explained.
You'll need an Azure account to try out the new Mobile Services. Creating a new service is easy though, even trivial, you just need to follow a wizard. You'll get access to an SQL database, you can use an existing one if you want, and the APIs needed to store and retrieve information.
For now, the services, which again are in preview mode and only available in one datacenter in East US, are only available for Windows 8 apps. However, there are plans to add support for other platforms, iOS, Android and Windows Phone.