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With Azure And Visual Studio, Microsoft Hugs Cloud And Mobile Developers A Little More Tightly

If you don’t do Windows, Microsoft still wants to talk to you.

One proof point there: Windows Azure, its answer to Amazon Web Services, is now called Microsoft Azure. The name change may be superficial, but there are deeper changes afoot, including a host of announcements the company made at its Build conference for developers in San Francisco on Thursday.

Visual Studio Goes Online

The core of how Microsoft has catered to software creators over the year is Visual Studio, a desktop program that offers an integrated development environment, or IDE—in other words, all the tools you need to write, test, and fix software. It was, naturally, only available on Windows.

At Build, Microsoft executive Scott Guthrie announced that Visual Studio Online, a Web-based version of Visual Studio, had exited a period of testing and was now available to all comers. For groups of more than 5 users, it requires a paid subscription, and it still lacks some of the features of the desktop version, but it is a way developers who prefer Mac or Linux machines can get a taste of Microsoft’s code-building tools. 

Another way Microsoft is courting those developers is through the partnership it unveiled last November with Xamarin, a San Francisco-based software company which offers code-building software compatible with Microsoft’s tools and frameworks, including the C# programming language and the .Net framework. Xamarin Studio is available for both Mac and Windows, making it another way Microsoft can broaden its reach among developers it has not traditionally courted. Xamarin cofounder Miguel de Icaza demonstrated Xamarin on stage at Build on Thursday.

Azure Skies

At the same time, it is also clear that Visual Studio will also be more and more tightly integrated with Azure. For example, Microsoft  now lets Visual Studio users increase or decrease the amount of computing power they wish to rent on Azure right within the program. This integration is meant to let developers move more quickly by adding extra servers or instances without having to leave their coding environment.

Ironically, Microsoft is catching up on its own turf. Amazon, Microsoft’s archrival in Web-based computing services, recognized the opportunity to court Microsoft developers and already offers a Visual Studio extension for managing the full range of Amazon Web Services offerings within the program.

Microsoft is now talking to developers beyond the Windows world.

Microsoft is now talking to developers beyond the Windows world.

MIcrosoft also added to its mobile back-end offerings, which allow app developers to focus more on designing an app’s user interface and worry less about how it will store data and run code.

A key back-end service is Azure Active Directory, a Web-based version of Microsoft’s authentication system for corporate networks. An executive from DocuSign, a document-management service, showed how its mobile app used Azure Active Directory to let users log in with the same credentials they might use for their company email—on an iPhone, no less.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory works on iOS devices, too.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory works on iOS devices, too.


At the same time it’s making Visual Studio more attractive—or at least a plausible option—for non-Windows developers, its also letting developers use a wide variety of programming languages to access Azures computing services. And it’s letting them use Visual Studio and Azure to create apps that run on Apple’s iOS, Googles Android, and the Web, not just Windows.

This doesn’t represent a whole new strategy for Microsoft, which has been building towards this for years. But the collection of products and features Microsoft highlighted at Build shows that it now has a serious portfolio for developers of all stripes.

Photo of Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president, cloud and enterprise group, by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

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Getting More From Your RLSA Campaigns

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) has been, in my opinion, the highest impact feature released by Google over the last year! However, many people out there are still not putting them to use, and those who are using them could probably be getting even more out of them by adopting smarter…



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More April Fools: Everything From Tools To Make Your Video Viral To Free Nexus Phones

Yesterday, our editor in chief Matt McGee found a number of Google April Fools jokes already in play, including a Google Maps Pokemon challenge and Google+ David Hasselhoff photobombs. Not wanting Google to be the only one having all the April Fools fun, a number of other companies have released…



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Google Webmaster Tools Gives More Precise Index Status Data

Google has announced the ability for webmasters to now track indexed URLs for each protocol – HTTP and HTTPS – as well as for verified subdirectories. The change will make it easier for site owners to monitor different sections of their website.

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More Google April Fools: Everything From Emoji Translators To Free Nexus Phones

Yesterday, our editor in chief Matt McGee found a number of April Fools jokes already in play, including a Google Maps Pokemon challenge and Google+ David Hasselhoff photobombs. Today’s first batch of April Fools pranks include a few from Google, as well as jokes directed at the search giant….



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How “One Microsoft” Is Going To Get A Lot More Real At Build 2014

Microsoft would like to reintroduce you … to Microsoft.

Microsoft kicks off its long-running Build developer conference in San Francisco this week, and it’s undoubtedly going to spend a lot of time reminding everyone of its “One Microsoft” message—its attempt to line up its various products and services into a single strategy that encompasses them all, from Windows and Windows Phone to Azure and the OneDrive cloud and Office 365.

The star of the show will be someone not named Bill or Steve. The ringmaster for Build 2014 will be Satya Nadella, the new Microsoft chief executive officer. Nadella will present the progress that Microsoft has made in streamlining its horizontal suite of products, bringing the desktop, mobile, productivity and the cloud together for both users and developers.

It’s going to be a good moment to take stock of Microsoft’s success in unifying its approach to computing.

Windows 8.1 And Possibly Windows 9 Preview

So what should we be looking for specifically from Microsoft this week? The key numbers to look will be “8.1” and “9.”

The primary news to come out of Build on Wednesday will have to do with Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft’s distinct-but-similar operating systems for PCs and smartphones are both slated for significant updates this week, with new features and functions for developers building apps for them.

Microsoft, which provided an outline of Windows 8.1 Update 1 in February, will undoubtedly take the opportunity to lay out its changes in greater detail. The update will offer interface improvements for mouse and keyboard users, such as a new app switcher and launcher for mouse users. Microsoft may also sketch out plans for making Windows 8.1 less of a resource hog, possibly allowing for Window 8.1 tablets and laptops with as little as 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.

For Windows Phone 8.1, look for big news on the personal assistant front. Cortana, Microsoft’s long-rumored answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, may finally get an introduction. The next Windows Phone 8.1—codenamed Blue—will also offer integrated VPN support, a new battery saving feature, an update to Internet Explorer 11 and an updated camera layout. For developers, a new diagnostics hub is on the horizon, as are updated debugging tools and more.

Microsoft will probably also show off an extremely early preview of Window 9, codenamed Threshold—but don’t expect it to say too much about the next OS.

New Nokia Lumia devices are almost assuredly coming as well. Nokia is holding an event on Wednesday afternoon to “discuss” new gadgets. Microsoft didn’t announce any new devices itself at Build 2013, but it did highlight a long list of hybrid Windows PC and hybrid tablets on stage with former CEO Steve Ballmer.

One App Store To Rule Them All

As for “One Microsoft,” the biggest announcement we’re likely to see at Build 2014 will be a “universal” app store that marries the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Marketplace. Microsoft has worked hard to unify the software kernel that powers Windows Phone, Windows RT and Windows 8 to simplify development of apps across its various operating-system flavors.

Now its goal is to showcase “universal apps” that are easier to design for both Windows and Windows Phone OSes, although Microsoft stops well short of promising full cross-compatibility.

As Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Phone, said in an interview with ReadWrite at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:

The fact that we have built a common core we did that with Windows Phone 8 so now we have the same kernel and class systems and device driver and security and all the stuff under the hood is consistent. And we have a user experience that cuts across that range of devices. It is not identical, but it is consistent. We have cloud services that connect them all. We have an app (ecosystem) that needs to be more consistent and we are getting there and that is kind of what we will talk about at Build.

ReadWrite editor-in-chief Owen Thomas, mobile editor Dan Rowinski and enterprise reporter Anthony Myers will all be on scene at Build 2014 for all Windows 8, Azure and Windows Phone 8.1 news.

Enterprise Preview: Azure

By Anthony Myers

On the corporate-computing side of things, Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, is likely to take center stage. For starters, it’s getting a very One Microsoftian renaming—to Microsoft Azure from Windows Azure. Also, Nadella’s previous job was running Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, highlighting the importance of that business to the company.

Azure is a fast growing segment of Microsoft’s business, so much so that the company plans to add 14 new Azure data centers in 2014, Azure general manager Steven Martin recently told Business Cloud News. Martin said that demand for Azure “continues to double every six to nine months” and shows no sign of slowing.

Some Azure news is already out—on Monday, for instance, Microsoft slashed Azure pricing, following similar cuts at Amazon and Google. And at Nadella’s first public announcement, we learned about the launch of the company’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, a portion of which is called Azure Active Directory Premium. This lets businesses create online portals for employees to download apps for work, for example.

Microsoft is also due to spill some more details about new, designed-for-touch versions of the company’s Office productivity tools—essentially the Windows equivalent to its just announced Office for iPad. The “touch first” version of Office is due out later this year.

Less clear is what new Microsoft may announce from its Bing search engine. Last year, Microsoft showed off APIs that allow developers to build access to Bing’s underlying tools directly in their apps; perhaps more to the point, Microsoft started talking up Bing as an essential “knowledge” component of its approach to the Internet of Things—another area where the company needs its ducks in a row to really begin competing.

Image of Satya Nadella by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

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Google’s April Fools’ Day Jokes For 2014: Google Maps Pokémon Challenge, Magic Hand & More

Is it just me, or does it seem like Google starts celebrating April Fools’ Day earlier and earlier every year? No company on the web takes April 1st more seriously than Google, as we’ve been covering for years now: Google’s April Fools’ Day 2013 Joke-A-Thon: YouTube…



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3 More Advanced Backlink Strategies Instead of Guest Blogging by @rollerblader

Link building is about great content and finding ways to get the word out about it so that people can find it. The important thing to remember is you need to have a clear content strategy that leads to people find your content and giving you links. I wrote this post on SEJ about alternatives to guest blogging […]

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Adam Riemer

Adam Riemer is a long time online marketing veteran. With more than 10 years of experience in SEO, Ethical Affiliate Management, Adware and Theft detection as well as PPC and Sales Funneling he enjoys helping his clients scale with clear and measurable results. Visit his blog or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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3 Ways Merchants Can Gain More Visibility on Google

Highlighting Google special offers, using Google Consumer Surveys, and making sure you list all of your products on Google Shopping are three easy ways to get a jump on your competition – and they don’t require too much work.

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5 SEM Spying Strategies You Can Use Today to Generate More Profit

Drive more search profit by using keyword and competitive research tools, crowdsourcing, reverse engineering competitor campaign structure, monitoring competitor search activity and changes, and hiding your best keywords and ads from competition.

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