Microsoft’s Future Lies in Software and Data

[qi:gigaom_icon_cloud-computing] Microsoft (s msft) today at its developer conference in Los Angeles unveiled its Pinpoint service, which looks kind of like an app store aimed at enterprise developers and customers using Microsoft’s Azure cloud offerings, albeit one that goes beyond mere apps. It also showed off  a data repository, code-named Dallas, that offers developers access to a wide variety of public and fee-based data sets with which they can build useful programs. Dallas, which can be found in the Pinpoint market, strongly resembles the service shown off this year at DEMO from Austin, Texas-based Infochimps. It was also by far the most interesting element of Microsoft’s chief software architect Ray Ozzie’s opening keynote, which highlighted what he called Redmond’s “three screens and cloud” view of the world.
If the remainder of the conference’s speaker line-up is any indication, Microsoft is embracing a world of apps and mashups to enable developers to build software that can run across mobile, PC and other device platforms. Linking all this together will be Microsoft’s Azure cloud, which will go into production Jan. 1, 2010. For more on Azure, check out our previous coverage. With Pinpoint, Microsoft is acknowledging the success of the Android Marketplace and Apple’s App Store, and trying to get developers excited about the prospect of building programs to run in Windows environments. Pinpoint also offers links to consulting services and companies that work with Microsoft.
The Dallas data store is a pretty compelling showcase “application” in the Pinpoint market, as developers could access any manner of data and build an application around it. For example, one could build an Urban Spoon-style application that uses a bunch of the available data sets to offer up evening entertainment options in the user’s local area. As Ozzie said after he emphasized all of the data now available to us in the form of government information, news, sensor networks and even web analytics, “Data does no good unless we turn it from the potential into the kinetic.”
With Dallas and Pinpoint Microsoft wants to become a company that aggregates, stores and serves up information in ways that are accessible to developers and corporate clients. On the consumer front, Microsoft has created agreements with companies like Wolfram Alpha, Facebook and Twitter for its Bing search engine as another way to surface data beyond the mere words listed on a web page. Microsoft isn’t just selling software anymore; it’s selling itself as a clearinghouse for information.
Among the other developments that have come out of the conference so far:

  • Seesmic, the popular Twitter client, is building a Windows client that uses Silverlight.
  • Matt Mullenweg Mullenwag, CEO of Automattic (Disclaimer: Automattic, maker of WordPress, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True), appeared onstage to say WordPress will offer access to Microsoft Azure for blogs to help handle spikes in traffic.
  • Azure nerds will appreciate that Microsoft will support Java, PHP, MySQL, and Eclipse in addition to .Net.
  • Those concerned about storing information on Microsoft’s servers after the T-Mobile Sidekick disaster should be relieved to hear that all items stored in Azure will be replicated in two data centers in each geographic region (in case a problem in one data center takes out the information there).
  • The Cheezburger Network has launched a new site called Oddly Specific that showcases funny signs and uses the WordPress for Azure platform.