Microsoft Experiments On iPhone Users

Last week we learned about the launching of Microsoft's first iPhone app, Seadragon, created by Microsoft's Live Labs research group. Seadragon is a iPhone and AJAX web plugin that lets you view high density graphic images (we're talking gig's in size here) in a web browser or via your iPhone. So... what the heck is Microsoft doing messing around building apps for the iPhone you might ask? Interesting question. From a research perspective, the iPhone brings both a sophisticated hardware mobile platform with a GPU along with millions of users who potentially can try out Seadragon, giving Microsoft an opportunity to try out their technology on a large number of users, even though Microsoft's sticking their nose under the Apple tent. Aside from Office on the Mac, we've not seen this happen too often. But there's more than just research work at play here.

Rumored since early last fall, Microsoft is expected to bring out their voice actived TellMe voiceXML service on the iPhone platform. TellMe currently only runs on a handful of Blackberry models (not yet including the Blackberry Storm, btw.) The TechFlash article also talks about the "large number" of Microsofties attending a recent Seattle-area iPhone developers group meeting. Sounds like something more serious is up than Microsoft just doing some casual research on iPhone users.

Given the market dominance the iPhone has achieved, Microsoft must do more than just take note, they have to include the iPhone in their web 2.0 application and cloud strategies. Like it or not, the iPhone is a platform users are bringing into their Microsoft prevalent IT shops and their personal lives. I'm waiting for the Windows Mobile 7 shoe to drop but I'd be my Blackberry Storm that online apps and cloud services will be layered into any Windows Mobile 7 strategy big time.

The research plowed into the Live Lab's Seadragon shows that Microsoft is placing significant value on the GPU in the iPhone, something other platforms don't have. The GPU is what gives the iPhone's interface that snappy little bounce when you are scrolling and relatively quick performance (though the iPhone also employs some tricks like recommending developers show an image of their app's main screen while the app is loading so performance will appear faster.)

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