Thoughts on Windows Azure Mobile Services

I was excited, when I saw the Windows Azure Mobile Services announcement. The idea itself is great – all those different services joined into a single, simple cohesive API. While SDK for other platforms (even Windows Phone) is currently not available, but that is not a big problem, because underneath it uses the same HTTP.

Mobile services provide several important features: data storage, authentication, authorization and push notifications. In fact, if you think about developing apps for the user that have to share the state (e.g. between devices) – that’s a perfect thing. Considering the fact that according the Windows Azure pricing site you can

Run up to 10 Mobile Services for free in a multitenant environment

This is great, isn’t it? And the provided ToDo List Sample application shows just like that. Everything is good, except one thing – mobile services don’t include SQL Server cost. And it does cost …

Suggested model is valid, if you’re developing multitenant application and you want to hold the data as part of your service – then you pay for the data storage and bandwidth.

Another story is, if you are really making yet another “to do” application (YATDA), then it is about the user to decide, whether they want to keep it locally or make available on all their devices and potentially pay for the storage and bandwidth usage.

So, even after introduction of mobile services, fact is still the same: there is still no place for per-user (not per-application) storage for application data that should be available on his multiple devices.

Windows 8 has an ability to sync settings, but that works only between Windows 8 machines and only if you have switched to Microsoft account. Really? Thanks, but no, thanks.

Storing application data on SkyDrive is also not an option – its “fair use” requirements prohibit storing anything else except documents and pictures.

Mobile services on the other hand requires an app developer to own, manage and pay for. And most probably he will want that money back either in form of payment or Ads. Can you imagine YATDA that has “Sign-up for the free trial” as it is shown in the sample? Me not.

So what’s missing in the story? IMO only one thing – this service should be also available as part other Windows Online services together with Outlook, SkyDrive, Calendar and others. Ideally, each Windows Online user could have allocated 100MB or 1GB database for free that he could use for all his applications he wants to make available on all devices.

I hope it will happen sometime in the near future, because this would make “three-screen” strategy possible and easy.