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TechnologyMay 15, 2013

Cool Features of Windows Azure Mobile Services

Andrew Allen

So, what’s the buzz around Windows Azure Mobile Services? Many of you may already be using several of Windows Azure’s capabilities; however, Microsoft recently released Windows Azure Mobile Services specifically designed to help users create mobile applications (apps). The purpose of this blog post is to dive into the awesome features of Windows Azure Mobile Services and what makes it so easy to use.

Introduction

By far, one of the best things about the new Windows Azure Mobile Services is the number of tutorials and videos surrounding the main features of mobile services. From a “Hello World” type tutorial for creating a mobile service to setting up push notifications, the Windows Azure Mobile Services website (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/) has plenty of detailed resources.

Each feature provides a simple step-by-step guide through both written documentation and short video. Not only are the tutorials helpful, but so too are the comments below each article, which can enlighten users and help in fixing common problems. Also, each tutorial has a tailored section for the different mobile platforms that Windows Azure Mobile Services supports including:

  • Windows Store

  • Windows Phone 8

  • iOS

  • Android

  • HTML

Favorite Cool New Features

1. Creating your First Mobile Service

The Windows Azure Mobile Services website makes it extremely easy to create your first mobile service. Even for someone who has never touched Windows Azure, the short step-by-step tutorial can help get your first mobile service up and running within minutes. Microsoft has done a solid job in making the tutorial easy for the user to follow. The step-by-step instructions walk you through creating your first mobile service, as well as, a “To Do List” app. This app can be created on any of the five platforms mentioned above. The tutorial includes five different sections designed for the different platforms. The only requirement is to have a Windows Azure account, which applies to all tutorials, and Microsoft makes it easy for users to set up a free trial account. In order to get started with your first Windows Azure Mobile Service and “To Do List” app, visit the following link: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/tutorials/get-started/.

2. Authentication

The Windows Azure Mobile Services website provides a section of tutorials that specifically deals with how to authenticate users from your app. These tutorials require that you have already created your first mobile service and “To Do List” app, as mentioned in the section above. For the five different platforms, Microsoft walks through the following steps: (1) registering your app for authentication, (2) restricting permissions to users, and (3) adding authentication to your “To Do List” app. The unfortunate part about these specific authentication tutorials is that Microsoft only provides videos for Windows Store and Windows Phone 8. However, don’t worry the written step-by-step tutorials for iOS, Android, and HTML are detailed and sufficient. Getting started with Windows Azure Mobile Services authentication can be found at http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/tutorials/get-started-with-users-dotnet/.

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3. Push Notifications

One of my personal favorite tutorials deals with using Windows Azure Mobile Services to create and send push notifications to a recently created “To Do List” app. Each time you insert a new record into your “To Do List,” the mobile service will send your app a notification updating you that the new record was created successfully. Because of the different platforms, the tutorials for each device vary since they deal with different push services. The Windows Store and Windows Phone tutorials show users how to add push notifications using the Windows Push Notification Service. The iOS tutorial shows users how to add push notifications using the Apple Push Notification Service. Unlike the other tutorials, the iOS tutorial is currently the only one with a video tutorial and walks through creating a provisioning profile for your application. Finally, the Android tutorial shows users how to add push notifications using the Google Cloud Messaging Service. All tutorials walk through a basic guideline of the following: (1) registering your “To Do List” app for push notifications, (2) configuring your mobile service, (3) actually adding the push notifications, (4) creating scripts to send the notifications, and (5) inserting data to receive the push notifications. In order to get started, please visit the following link: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/tutorials/get-started-with-push-dotnet/.

4. Storing and Retrieving Data

Storing and retrieving data using Windows Azure Mobile Services is a key component to creating a successful mobile service and app. This tutorial demonstrates how to use data efficiently in the different apps. Unlike the previous sections, the tutorial steps guide you through downloading and configuring an app, which has already been built for you. The GetStartedWithData app is available for download for Windows Store, Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android, and HTML5. The app initially stores data in memory when you download and use it. You can then create the mobile service and table used for storage. Depending on the platform used, the tutorial walks you through connecting and testing your app to the newly created mobile service. Getting started with leveraging data using Windows Azure Mobile Services can be found at http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/mobile/tutorials/get-started-with-data-dotnet/.

Have you had a chance to test out Windows Azure Mobile Services? What are your favorite features? Share your comments or questions concerning Windows Azure Mobile Services in the comment section below or send a tweet to @CrederaMSFT.