Windows Azure Mobile Services adds Android support and extends availability to East Asia

We created Mobile Services to make it easier for developers to build engaging and dynamic mobile apps that scale.  By using Mobile Services, developers are not only able to connect their applications to a scalable and secure backend hosted in Windows Azure, but also store data in the cloud, authenticate users and send push notifications.  When Scott Guthrie announced the initial public preview of Windows Azure Mobile Services, he promised that we would deliver first-class support for developers building Windows Store, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android apps.  We launched in August with Windows Store support and added iOS and Windows Phone 8 client libraries shortly thereafter. 

As we extended support to additional platforms, we also added several other exciting capabilities like Scheduler for running scripts at regular intervals and command line tooling for automating the creation and management of Mobile Services.  Scheduler was an important addition to Mobile Services because it reduces the complexity of performing recurring tasks to the few clicks of a button.  Certain apps may need to aggregate Twitter data hourly, some may need to send digest emails daily, and others may need to perform database cleanup weekly. Developers facing each of those challenges can save valuable time by setting up Scheduler within seconds rather than spending days writing their own custom solution.  Partnerships with Xamarin, Twilio, SendGrid, and Pusher not only expanded the Mobile Services feature set, but also enabled developers to build apps for almost any mobile platform using their favorite services.  

Continuing that momentum, Scott Guthrie recently announced several important updates to Windows Azure Mobile Services:

  • Mobile Services now fully supports developing native Android apps
  • Mobile Services are now available in the East Asia region

To date, we’ve been really impressed with what developers have built using Mobile Services.  From the Johnson & Johnson Digital Health Scorecard to VGTV to Slot Machine to SlyFox, we’ve seen Mobile Services help developers across the globe publish some really impressive connected apps.  And we can’t wait to see how Android developers will add to that variety.

We’re committed to making it easy for developers to build and deploy cloud-connected applications for every major mobile platform using their favorite languages, tools, and services.  And we will continue to make product improvements and pursue partnerships that allow us to keep that promise.  

Android Support

The Windows Azure team partnered with Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc. to deliver Android support; the MS Open Tech engineering team developed the SDK and the Windows Azure team built push support and completed the portal integration. The Android SDK developed by MS Open Tech, like all Mobile Services SDKs, is open source and available on GitHub under the Apache 2.0 license.  We welcome community contributions.

The SDK lets you connect your favorite Android phone or tablet (Android 2.2+) to a cloud backend and deliver push notifications via Google Cloud Messaging. It also allows you to authenticate your users via their Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Microsoft credentials. 

Getting Started with Android

To get started with Mobile Services for Android, visit the Windows Azure Management Portal and then click Create —> Compute —> Mobile Service —> Create.  

After you’ve created your Mobile Service, visit the Quickstart and select the “Android” tab.  You’ll have the option to either create a new app or connect a backend hosted in Windows Azure to an existing Android app. 

When you choose to create a new Android app, you’ll be able to download the todo starter project and see how changes you make in the emulator are reflected in a table in your Windows Azure SQL database.

Adding Push Notifications

Push notifications are a critical element of an engaging mobile app, yet configuring push can also be the most frustrating part of development.  Mobile Services makes it easy to enrich your app though push notifications without the headache.

Once you register for Google Cloud Messaging using Google’s APIs Console and obtain your API key, simply paste that key on the Mobile Services ‘Push’ tab:

After you’ve entered your API key, you can then send a notification from any server script under the ‘Data’ tab using the following code:

push.gcm.send(registrationId, ‘A new Mobile Services task’, {
     success: function(response) {
          console.log(‘Push notification sent: ‘, response);
     },
     error: function(error) {
          console.log(‘Error sending push notification: ‘, error);
     }
});

Once that push notification is triggered, you’ll see it appear on screen.

Visit the mobile dev center for the full tutorials that cover:

My colleague, Chris Risner, also provides a short introduction to building Android apps in this video: 

After you get up to speed with Android on Mobile Services, I encourage you to take a look at two additional Android samples—TicTacToe Leaderboard and Feedback.

Mobile Services Availability in the East Asia Region

As part of this update, the Mobile Services team also added the ability to deploy your Mobile Services to the East Asia region of Windows Azure in order to reduce latency for applications with customers in Asia.

As always, remember to deploy your Mobile Service and Windows Azure SQL database to the same data center in order to minimize latency.

Summary

You can start using the official Android SDK and deploying your Mobile Services to the East Asia region right away.

These updates are the direct result of your feedback.  Please continue to visit our uservoice page to let us know what you’d like to see added next, email us to show off your app, and ask questions in our forum whenever you run into a problem. 

If you don’t already have a Windows Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using Mobile Services today. Visit the Windows Azure Mobile Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with Mobile Services.

Let me know what you think of this update and what you’d like to see next @Mlunes90

 

Miranda