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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 27, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Microsoft touts Azure progress, builds iOS app

SAN FRANCISCO _ When in Rome, do as the Romans, so Microsoft built app for the iPhone using a Mac on stage in front of 6,000 developers here at its Build conference today.

After touting the growth of its Azure online computing platform and its new Visual Studio software tool kit, Microsoft demonstrated how easy it is to develop apps that run on Apple’s iOS using Microsoft’s Windows Azure Mobile Services.

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That followed a demo that showed how Google’s Chrome browser can be set as a default browser when building a web site with Microsoft’s ASP.NET framework.

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It makes the bitter platform wars that characterized Microsoft’s relationship with Silicon Valley during the 1990s and 2000s seem like ancient history. That’s partly because it’s biggest rival in the online computing space is now Seattle-based Amazon.com, which took an early lead with its platform-agnostic Amazon Web Services. It also reflects how Microsoft has evolved and become more pragmatic as it approaches its 40th birthday.

Aaron Levie, chief executive of Los Altos, Calif.-based online storage company Box, was impressed by Microsoft’s embrace of heterogeneity.

“It’s really exciting to see an all new Microsoft,” he said on stage, where he talked about how his company’s working with Azure.

Levie said he was taken aback by the demo using a Mac.

“I was afraid Bill Gates was going to drop down from the ceiling and rip it off,” he said.

Gates gets the last laugh.

When Levie was still in grade school, Silicon Valley tech leaders such as Sun’s Scott McNealy were mocking Microsoft’s early attempts to build server software and move into enterprise computing. Sun faded and was absorbed into Oracle, which is working with Microsoft to run its software on Azure.

Microsoft’s Server and Tools business, headed by Satya Nadella, has become Microsoft’s most consistent revenue generator and was its second-largest business last year with sales of $18.7 billion.

Azure is off to a strong start with more than half of Fortune 500 companies using its services, Nadella said. At the same time, Microsoft’s “seeing tremendous growth” in sales of traditional server software that companies use in-house, he said.

Another sign of the evolution of Microsoft’s view of its software development platform is its overtures to open-source communities. The company partnered with open-source developers on a Python add-in for Visual Studio, S. Somasegar, vice president of Microsoft’s developer division, noted at a later presentation.

It may still be awhile before Microsoft builds native support for competing products such as Java into Visual Studio, Somasegar said. But the company’s happy to work with partners who want to create add-in features, such as an Amazon Web Services plug-in suggested by Amazon.com.

When someone brought up the Oracle partnership, Somasegar – who started at Microsoft in 1989 – grinned and said “It’s a new world.”

Here’s Janet Tu’s blogging of the keynote and Nadella’s Azure momentum slide:

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Microsoft had a head start building an online computing platform because it has experience operating its own huge services such as Xbox Live and Skype, Nadella said.

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Comments | Topics: Apple, apps, azure


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