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Microsoft releases Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7

by Simon Guest on Mar 29, 2011 |

On Mar 23, 2011, Microsoft announced the availability the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7. The toolkit, downloadable from CodePlex, installs as a Visual Studio 2010 extension, and is designed to make it easier for developers to build applications on Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices that interact with Windows Azure.

Wade Wegner, Microsoft’s Azure Technical Evangelist, describes how this helps developers become more productive:

For example, rather than require you to learn any new semantics around storage or put in the time to build out membership services to provide authentication and authorization for your phone applications, we’ve done it for you and provide you with a sample demonstrating the necessary steps.

Wegner goes on to list the five core components of the toolkit:

  • Binaries – These are libraries we’ve written that you can use in your Windows Phone 7 applications to make it easier to work with Windows Azure (e.g. a full storage client library for blobs and tables). You can literally add these libraries to your existing Windows Phone 7 applications and immediate start leveraging services such as Windows Azure storage.
  • Docs – We’ve provided documentation that covers setup and configuration, a review of the toolkit content, getting started, and some troubleshooting tips.
  • Dependency Checker – As you’ve come to expect and love, we provide a full dependency checker to ensure that you have all the bits required in order to successfully use the toolkit.
  • Project Templates – We have built VSIX (which is the unit of deployment for a Visual Studio 2010 Extension) files that create project templates that make it easy for you to build brand new applications.
  • Samples - We have a sample application that fully leverages the toolkit, both available in C# and VB.NET.  The sample application is also built into one of the two project templates created by the toolkit.

The VSIX extension mentioned above provides developers with two additional template types - “Windows Phone 7 Cloud Application” and “Windows Phone 7 Empty Cloud Application”. Both templates contain a Windows Phone 7 project and a Windows Azure “WebRole” project that make up the solution; at runtime, one of the projects is deployed to the device, the other to an active Azure instance.

The toolkit supports storage mechanisms for accessing Blob and Table storage directly from the device, allowing both binary data (e.g. photos taken on the phone) and structured data (e.g. high scores in a game) to be stored in Windows Azure. In addition, the service provides an alternative authentication mechanism where the developer can select to use username/password authentication for the storage rather than the default Azure mechanism, which is based on a shared key that has to be stored on the phone.

As Wegner states, additional work is already underway for future versions, including:

  • Notification services for Windows Phone 7 (and other devices) that run in Windows Azure
  • Support for Windows Azure queues
  • More sample applications
  • Multiple NuGet packages
  • SQL Azure support & samples
  • DataMarket support & samples

Although the project is clearly in the early stages, the toolkit will likely be welcomed by developers who are creating applications that run on Windows Phone 7, but have a need to store information in, and interact with, Windows Azure.

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