The Midweek Download: Jan. 16th Edition – Delivering on the Cloud OS & the ‘Next App Star’ Contest Kicks Off

In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on the Cloud OS and the opportunity it brings enterprise customers and IT managers, retailers connecting with customers using Windows 8 apps, plus a shot at seeing your app featured in a Windows Phone TV ad through the Next App Star contest.

What is the Cloud OS? “We all know change is constant, especially in technology,” says Corporate Vice President of Marketing for Server & Tools Michael Park in his guest post on The Official Microsoft Blog. “Managing through change is always a challenge, but over the past 20 years I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my career in the tech industry,” Park adds. During the past six months Parks has been talking to IT executives and partners about the big changes and trends in enterprise IT, such as the various cloud computing models, the consumerization of IT, the new generation of connected applications and big data. Yesterday, Microsoft announced several new products and services that deliver against the Cloud OS. Read all about them in yesterday’s edition of The Official Microsoft Blog and in this Microsoft News Center press release.

Retailers reach more customers with Windows 8. This week, Microsoft is at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual conference in New York City demonstrating how Windows 8 apps and devices are helping transform the way retailers do business. As we shared last week, Windows 8 has sold over 60 million licenses since launching in October and apps are available in more than 200 markets globally. This expanding landscape makes the Windows 8 platform a great vehicle for retailers to reach more customers and build new relationships worldwide (see eBay’s Windows 8 app below). In 2012, consumers spent $25 billion (11 percent of total ecommerce sales) while shopping on mobile devices, particularly tablets, according to recent data from market research firm eMarketer. That number is expected to increase 55.7 percent in 2013. Get the rest of the story Monday’s post on the Windows for your Business blog, and track more NRF conference news on Microsoft News Center.

Next App Star: See your app featured in a Windows Phone TV ad. That’s right – we’ve cooked up something very big for developers in 2013. We’ll fill you in on the details in a moment. By now you’ve probably noticed that for Windows Phone 8, we’ve deployed an all-new infrastructure focused on creating a great experience for both consumers and developers. Our new developer platform brings features that deliver both scale and opportunity – including investments in a common UX design language, global distribution, and a flexible set of business models to support different approaches to monetization. We will continue to innovate and find ways to improve the developer experience, but I’m pleased to say that with so many big 2012 deployments behind us, we’ve got the pieces in place to make 2013 a great year for Windows Phone developers. Want to become the Next App Star? Watch the video below or head to Monday’s post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog for details.

CES: Cool new PCs make a lot of sense for business. 2013 just started and as usual, the Consumer Electronics Show had us off to a busy start. CES was in full swing in Las Vegas last week and our OEM partners showed off a whole bunch of great new devices. You may have already seen the post from Nick Parker, CVP of our OEM Division, highlighting some of the PCs coming to market. In this Jan. 9 post, Jay Paulus from the Windows team showcased some PCs that are available with Windows 8 Pro and great for small and midsize businesses. Check them out on the Windows for your Business blog.

Getting a content rating for your Windows App. Support for PEGI and other ratings systems is an important part of the Windows Store—we want people to always have a clear expectation of the type of content an app contains. Also, many countries such as Taiwan, South Africa, Brazil, and Korea, have consumer protection laws in place that require games to obtain and display an appropriate content rating. If you’re new to getting a content rating from one of these systems, your first step is to identify the markets where you want to sell your app. Antoine Leblond of the Windows team explains how to get your app content rating in this Jan 11. post on the Windows Store for developers blog.

Razorfish takes shopping trips to the next dimension. The guys over at RazorFish have been busy in their lab, improving upon the 5D shopping experience that they unleashed at last year’s NRF EXPO. Judging from the video, it seems they’ve pulled out all the stops. Razorfish 5D uses Kinect for Windows and the Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft Pixelsense, along with a bunch of supporting technologies–near field communication, QR codes and multi-touch, to name a few. Together it creates a shopping experience that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Audi was so impressed they chose Razorfish 5D to power the Audi City store in London. Catch the story in yesterday’s post on Next at Microsoft or watch the video below.

Technology and innovation: Investing in our future. On Jan. 10, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith gave the closing keynote address at the 41st Annual Economic Forecast Conference. Presented by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, and attended by leaders across the public and private sectors, the conference provided insight into future economic trends and forecasts, as well as opportunities and challenges that surround the technology industry. Brad spoke to the urgent issue facing the technology sector not just in Washington state, but across the country – the need for more qualified talent in computer science and STEM fields. For the rest of the story, including a video of Smith’s speech, head over to the Microsoft on the Issues blog.

Getting Started with VM Depot. Do you need to deploy a popular OSS package on a Windows Azure virtual machine, but don’t know where to start? Or do you have a favorite OSS configuration that you’d like to make available for others to deploy easily? If so, the new VM Depot community portal from Microsoft Open Technologies is just what you need. VM Depot is a community-driven catalog of preconfigured operating systems, applications, and development stacks that can easily be deployed on Windows Azure. You can learn more about VM Depot in the announcement from Gianugo Rabellino over on Port 25 today. In this Jan 9. post, the Interoperability @ Microsoft blog covers the basics on how to use VM Depot. Check it out and get started.

New Windows Azure Mobile Services getting started content. It’s been less than five months since we introduced the first public preview for Windows Azure Mobile Services and in this short time we have seen continual additions to the Mobile Service offering including:

  • SDKs for Windows Store, Windows Phone 8 and iOS apps
  • Auth using Microsoft Account, Facebook, Google and Twitter
  • Push Notification support via WNS, MPNS and APNS
  • Structured storage
  • Scheduler to execute tasks on a schedule e.g aggregating feeds, sending notifications, crunching data
  • Deployment in North Europe, East and West US datacenters

Read Windows Azure Technical Evangelist Nick Harris’s guest post in the Jan 9. issue of the Windows Azure blog for details on the wealth of new content we recently released, designed to help you get started with Windows Azure Mobile Services including videos, code samples and tutorials.

And in case you missed it… Sold! Retailers turn to Microsoft to engage tech-savvy consumers.

That’s it for this edition of The Midweek Download! Thanks for reading!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog