Mobile developers have come to rely on a number of backend-as-a-service (BaaS) offerings that make developing and deploying mobile applications a whole lot simpler. Now Sencha wants to take that that concept to the next logical conclusion in the form of an extension to its application development tools that turns the Microsoft Azure cloud into a BaaS environment for mobile applications.
Sencha Touch Extensions for Microsoft Azure is an HTML5-compatible framework for developing mobile applications that allows developers to easily integrate Windows Azure Mobile Services, including mobile data, authentication and push notification services.
According to Sencha CEO Michael Mullany, the Microsoft Azure cloud platform lends itself easily to functioning as a BaaS platform because the APIs provided by Microsoft are clean and simple. In addition, Microsoft has made it a priority to focus on the needs of specific classes of developers—one of which is the base of mobile application developers that Sencha serves.
As a free downloadable plug-in, Sencha Touch Extension for Microsoft Azure allows developers to connect with the Azure Mobile Services API to perform create, read, update and delete (CRUD) operations on data service tables. The authentication service, meanwhile, eliminates the need to write, configure and test custom authentication systems. Sending push notifications only requires uploading developer credentials for a given platform, and developers can also connect to hubs that broadcast push notifications to millions of devices. Microsoft Azure also allows developers to store data in the cloud using blob and table formats, which makes it easy to add a global leaderboard to cross-platform games, maintain a friends list, and store images, videos and transactional information.
Separately, Sencha released the results of a survey of 2,128 business application developers, which shows mobile applications developers are now supporting, on average, five classes of platforms. Traditional Windows platforms are still the dominant platform, followed by Google Android, and Apple iOS, iPad and MacOS. St the same time, 30 percent of those developers now say they don’t support traditional Windows platforms at all, Mullany notes.
The degree to which Microsoft leverages its Windows Azure cloud services to reverse that momentum remains to be seen. Although it’s obvious that most developers still see Windows as a dominant platform they need to support, they are also starting to vote with their feet and time for other platforms. If these defections increase as a percentage of the total developer community in 2014, the Microsoft house that the development community helped build might not be as stable as many once took for granted.