In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got two behind-the-scenes stories of developers from the Windows Phone team, a story from Next at Microsoft on the blending of the physical and digital worlds and more.

Meet the team making Windows Phone faster. New models of Windows Phone will be equipped with LTE (long-term evolution) capabilities, thanks to a small team of engineers at Microsoft. The Windows Phone Customer Experience Engineering (CXE) team recently finished a project that makes Windows Phones on the AT&T network, such as the new Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II phones announced last week, LTE-capable. For more detail, check out this feature story on the Microsoft News Center. Below is a photo of Kathy Davis, one of the CXE team members.

Do you Rowi? Windows Phone Twitter app a big hit. Rowi may sound like some kind of rare New Zealand bird (which actually, it is) but it’s also a popular new Twitter app for Windows Phone created by two Microsoft employees. The moonlight creation of Erik Porter and Nathan Heskew, Rowi was developed to fully tap the social networking capabilities of the Windows Phone. Rowi lets Twitter users receive push notifications, and supports right-to-left (RTL) languages, the ability to pin Tweets to the Windows Phone start screen, and easier messaging and photo previews. Mosey on over to the Microsoft News Center for the rest of the story. That’s Porter and Heskew below.

New media services and architectural guidance for the cloud. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2012 conference earlier this week, Microsoft announced new media services and guidance to enable content providers and customers to realize the power of cloud computing. The new cloud-based Windows Azure Media Services is designed to make creating, managing and delivering media to any device easier than ever by offering a comprehensive set of ready-to-use first- and third-party media technologies. Microsoft also published a new Broadcast Reference Architecture that offers prescriptive guidance on how media companies can architect their solutions to improve systems performance management as they move toward the cloud. Read this press release for all the details.

A few bits and pieces for Windows Phone developers. Mike Battista on the Windows Phone Developer Blog continued his series on optimizing apps for lower cost devices Tuesday with this post on handling feature reductions. And late last week, Todd Brix blogged about adjusting to the rapid growth of Marketplace and the ramifications for developers.

Blending physical and digital worlds. Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton had been hearing the phrase “blending of the physical and digital” around Microsoft for a while and during TechForum, an event Craig Mundie hosted here in Redmond back in February, the phrase was widely used. Then again at TechFest a few weeks later. “There’s a good reason for this – many of the demos on show at both events highlighted the blending of the physical and digital. The Kinect sensor has been a key part of the shift as with it we now have technology that can see, hear and to a degree understand (voice),” Clayton writes in this Tuesday post on Next. Check it out.

Announcing Windows Azure Accelerator for Startups. The Microsoft Accelerator series, powered by TechStars, recently announced the finalists in the Kinect Accelerator program. Based on the success of that program, the Microsoft Accelerator Program team on Tuesday announced the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure. Powered by TechStars, the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure will host 10 companies for a three-month deep immersion program focused on building businesses that take advantage of the cloud. Through this program, Microsoft and TechStars will help entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators to bring to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless possibilities enabled by Windows Azure. Read this post on the Windows Azure Blog for more detail. Also, don’t miss the latest edition of the Windows Azure Community News Roundup.

Microsoft steps up engagement with open source and standards communities. Microsoft has announced a new wholly owned subsidiary known as Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. to advance the company’s investment in openness – including interoperability, open standards and open source. Jean Paoli’s existing Interoperability Strategy team will form the nucleus of this new subsidiary, and he will serve as President of Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. Read all about it on the Interoperability @ Microsoft Blog.

Microsoft Researcher achieves alma mater’s distinction. In Boston on Tuesday, in the Great Room of the Massachusetts State House, Victor Bahl, director of Microsoft Research Redmond’s Mobile Computing Research Center (MCRC), was introduced as one of six recipients of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s 2012 Distinguished Alumni Awards. The awards are presented annually to those who have built on their university experience to attain notable achievements in the business, public or community-service realms. Bahl, 47 and pictured left, earned the recognition with a superlative career that has featured a series of firsts in networking research, and on March 1, 2011, he was named head of the newly formed MCRC. He recently took time from his busy schedule to reflect on his career and his professional motivations in an interview with Microsoft Research.

That’s it for the edition of The Midweek Download. Thanks for reading!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog