Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud

Microsoft is making several announcements at TechEd this week that developers should be sure to catch, like the introduction of our new Windows Phone Marketplace policies. We’re also providing more details about some developer features, one of which I think is worth exploring more closely; private beta distribution through Windows Phone Marketplace. This is noteworthy not only as a cool new Marketplace feature, but also as a prime example of Microsoft embracing the concept of the public and private cloud.

At MIX in March we talked about the Windows Phone Marketplace and the public distribution aspects of that infrastructure. We also stated our intent to deliver a system whereby developers will be able to distribute applications to beta testers prior to marketplace certification. This week we are able to talk about this capability in more detail.

The public model enables developers to market and distribute applications to all phone users globally or based on a particular geography.  In contrast the private model enables developers to use the same Marketplace service to distribute applications to a defined set of people that they select for beta-testing. Developers will identify their beta-testers and then upload their application to the developer portal. The Windows Phone application deployment system will then ensure that the application is available on the beta-tester’s phones via a “deep link” the tester will receive in email. We’ll be rolling this mechanism out as we finalize the developer portal this fall.

This private distribution for beta-testing represents an important first step for Windows Phone. Those of you who have heard me present on Windows Phone 7 know that I frequently speak of the importance that cloud services play in creating user experiences. Microsoft is a leading proponent of the “cloud” services that compliment local software, be that software on a server, desktop or phone. Cloud services are increasingly providing both public and private functions, whereby an organization can tap into a public service’s extensive storage, bandwidth and infrastructure for private projects. Windows Phone Marketplace is one such cloud service and our long term strategy is to adopt the public and private cloud model with Marketplace as well. Initially, we are enabling private distribution of applications for registered developers in a way that is optimized for beta-testers. This will enable developers to more easily distribute test applications in a secure way. We also appreciate that as phones come to market and people begin bringing them into corporate environments, IT will look for a similar private distribution solution. We are working with our corporate customers to understand the full scope of their distribution needs. We anticipate that our eventual corporate distribution solution will be an extension of the private cloud model we’re introducing for developers in Windows Phone Marketplace.

So we’re starting by implementing a feature to help developers test applications, but over time we’re going to build on this public and private cloud philosophy to make the Marketplace infrastructure accessible to corporate and business customers as well. This will create an even richer marketplace for the games and applications that already live there by attracting an even broader base of customers who will no doubt want more than line of business applications on their new Windows Phone 7.