Microsoft News: Microsoft ‘All In’ on Windows Phone 7 and on Microsoft Azure

Although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer emphasized the pending release of Windows Phone 7during his opening keynote speech at the company’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) Thursday, much of the focus at this year’s event is on moving computing to the cloud.

In fact, he said that, not only is the company “all in” on the cloud, it is also “all in” — just as committed — to succeeding with Windows Phone 7.

Most of the announcements at Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) premier developer event, regarded products and improvements aimed at convincing developers to move their applications to the company’s cloud computing platform, Microsoft Azure.

At the event, officials gave a status update on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing service. In June the company boasted it had already signed up 10,000 paying customers for Microsoft Azure— after just four months of billings. Now, a little more than four months beyond that, paid customers have doubled to 20,000.

Meanwhile, Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, talked up the latest beta version of Internet Explorer 9, which began public testing last month.

“[Today,] we’re releasing IE9 Platform Preview 6,” Hachamovitch told the crowd, adding that interested parties can now download the beta update.

Company officials also said that more than 70 partners, including Twitter, Facebook, and, are building on IE9 already. Additionally, Hachamovitch said that IE9 has already reached 10 million downloads of the beta in the six weeks since its release.

With so much of Microsoft’s future depending on Microsoft’s entry into the smartphone marketplace, of course, Ballmer couldn’t help talking about it.

Officially launched earlier this month, Windows Phone 7handsets are due to go on sale in the U.S. on November 8.

Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET developer platform, announced that there will be 1,000 applications and games available when the Windows Phone Marketplaceopens. Submissions to the marketplace begin on Nov. 3.

However, the remainder of the keynote, presented by Microsoft’s Server and Tools Division President Bob Muglia, focused on the company’s cloud computing initiatives for businesses and developers.

Muglia portrayed Microsoft’s cloud computing efforts as providing a “platform as a service,” or PaaS. The idea is that customers shouldn’t need to deal with platform issues such as managing virtualization of applications in the cloud — those functions should be taken care of in and by the cloud itself.

“If you’re managing the VM [virtual machine], it’s not PaaS,” Muglia said. “The entire operating system environment is maintained so you can worry about your application,” he added. “We see PaaS as the destination where future applications will live.”

With that in mind, Microsoft announced several enhancements to Microsoft Azureto enable migration to PaaS.

“Today at PDC 2010, Microsoft announced Virtual Machine Role support for Windows Server 2008 R2 in Windows Azure,” the company said in a statement. Microsoft plans to begin a public beta test of the technology by the end of the year. That will move the company’s latest server — which shares its code base with Windows 7 — into the cloud.

“[Additionally,] Server Application Virtualization for Windows Azure will be available as a community technology preview (CTP) before the end of 2010, and the final release will be available to customers in the second half of 2011,” the company said.

Microsoft also announced new reporting capabilities for SQL Azure, a database technology in the cloud that is based on SQL Server.

In addition, officials announced an online marketplace for developers called Windows Azure Marketplace, as well as an “aisle” in the marketplace called DataMarket, where developers and information workers can get access to “premium third-party data.”

DataMarket, which was previously code named Dallas, was released Thursday. The beta of Windows Azure Marketplace is slated to begin testing by the end of 2010.

Microsoft’s PDC 2010 runs through Friday.

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