In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on Lync, Skype and the future of communications; big data visionaries talking shop in Silicon Valley, plus tips on making your Windows Phone apps stand out from the crowd.

Announcing the release of ASP.NET and Web Tools 2012.2 update. On Monday, Microsoft announced the final release of the ASP.NET and Web Tools 2012.2 update. This update is a free download for Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5, and adds some great additional features to both ASP.NET and Visual Studio. This update makes no changes to the existing ASP.NET runtime, and so it is fully compatible with your existing projects and development environment. Whether you use Web Forms, MVC, Web API, or any other ASP.NET technology, there is something in this update for you. Get an outline of the new and enhanced features, plus tips and resources in Monday’s post on Scott Guthrie’s Blog.

Rehumanizing communications from the living room to the boardroom. Microsoft Skype Division President Tony Bates gave the inaugural Lync Conference keynote address yesterday in San Diego to a sold-out show with our growing community of customers, partners and Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs). In a guest post on the Official Microsoft Blog yesterday, Bates summarizes his keynote as being about “re-humanizing communications ‘from the living room to the boardroom.’” People are at the center of this vision. All day, every day, we are all simultaneously consumers and professionals, friends, family and colleagues – and our communications technologies need to move between these dimensions as seamlessly as we do. To see what’s in store, head over to Bates’ post on the Official Microsoft Blog.

Make your app more attractive to customers in the Windows Phone Store. We’ve been talking a lot recently about what it will take to be one of the 64 winners of the Windows Phone Next App Star*contest to advance to the voting rounds, where the winning app will get the chance to be featured in a Windows Phone primetime TV ad. We’ve discussed App Quality and the importance of app Functionality, Utility, and Enjoyment, and now we’d like to cover another critical element. Today’s customers are busy and flooded with information and options. You must quickly win their interest and trust if you want to successfully drive them to consider purchasing your app. Find out how to do just that in this Feb. 13 post on the Windows Phone Developers Blog.

Everything’s bigger in Texas: State adopts Office 365 as part of a statewide IT modernization strategy for more than 100,000 employees. The Texas Department of Information Resources is adopting Office 365 for more than 100,000 employees in the largest statewide deployment of email and collaboration services in the U.S. The state will consolidate multiple systems in an effort to streamline and improve the state’s communication and collaboration capabilities across agencies and to help better serve the needs of its citizens. The move to the cloud offers significant savings in IT spending due to greater efficiencies and increased capacity, while providing employees with web conferencing, real-time collaboration and document and calendar sharing. To get the rest of the story, head over to the Feb.15 post on the Official Microsoft Blog.

Choosing between SQL Server in Windows Azure VM & Windows Azure SQL Database. Windows Azure gives you a choice in where to host your SQL data, with both SQL Server running in a VM (SQL/VM), and Windows Azure SQL database (SQL DB). SQL/VM and SQL DB come from a single code base, and each offering has its own strengths when it comes to cloud deployment. In this article, we build upon the earlier blog post on SQL Server in Windows Azure Virtual Machine vs. SQL Database and provide a simple decision tree to help choose the best SQL database solution in Windows Azure for your application/service. The decision tree is illustrated in the image below; however, take a look at this Feb. 14 post on the Windows Azure blog for everything else you need to know.

Microsoft brings big data experts together in Silicon Valley. Business folks from farmers in Nebraska to small store retailers in Mumbai to startup developers in Silicon Valley are finding that being able to quickly understand simple data analytics is making life easier and feeding the bottom line. During Big Data Date Night, an event hosted last night by Microsoft, 300 big data engineers, analysts and innovators from Silicon Valley gathered to talk shop and share how they are helping their customers make sense out of huge sets of structured and unstructured data, while giving glimpses into the tremendous business opportunities available through big data in all classes of enterprise and consumer verticals. Hear from event speakers in the video below and read the full story in this Feb. 14 post on the Official Microsoft Blog.

Posted by Steve Wiens
Guest Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog